How to get fast, reliable and affordable Internet?
the main points:
- Misinformation makes it difficult for telecom customers in the region to get the right internet service
- There is a need to improve ‘communication literacy’
- Customers can seek independent advice through the regional technology center
This is the question that many people, especially in regional Australia, are trying to answer. And often after a bit of searching online, they give up and contact the current provider.
But a recently released Regional Telecom Review report found that telecoms companies, as business entities, are “not always in a position to provide independent advice”.
For example, you might live in a place where a certain product is available but if the carrier you’re calling doesn’t sell it, they will turn you into a shoddy product that they do.
And what exactly is the difference between satellite internet, fixed line and wireless internet?
If you don’t know, you’re not alone, the report found that many of us just don’t have enough ‘connection knowledge’.
One place that offers independent advice on all of the above is the Regional Technical Centre.
It was funded by the federal government but managed by the National Farmers Federation.
The center’s director, Trent Geddes, shared his best tips for getting the right service for you.
Find out what type of internet is on offer
Mr. Geddes says that knowing what kind of internet is available in your location is an important first step.
“Get in touch with an organization like us because we can complete an independent review of all types of technology available,” he says.
Or, if you prefer to do it yourself, the Regional Tech Hub website has links to external mapping tools that you can use to zoom in on your home or office location and see what’s on offer.
“Sometimes addresses, depending on where you are in the country, don’t always end up translating to where your home is or where your office is,” says Geddes.
Get to know the products
There are many internet products offered in regional Australia.
The latest is Elon Musk’s Starlink.
This essentially includes ordering an online antenna, called Dishy, for which customers pay $824 and pay an ongoing monthly fee of $139.
Starlink relies on so-called low-Earth satellites, which are located about 550 kilometers from Earth, to send information through space.
Users are asked to expect fast download speeds between 50 and 250 Mbps and upload speeds between 10 and 20 Mbps.
She certainly got those speeds, says Taraeta Nicholls, a Starlink customer in Trayning, Western Australia, but only this week she experienced crippling outages.
Overall, she is happy to have Starlink but recommends users to get a backup internet alternative.
For example, you keep the wireless service you had before Starlink, or you can use mobile broadband.
Geddes says Starlink devices can easily be installed in previously hard-to-reach places, but he is concerned about their longevity.
“We don’t think it has been fully tested in the local environment,” he says.
“But I think people are just desperate for an option that works better than they might currently have and they’re just taking risks.”
Starlink’s Terms and Conditions state that its devices must operate for a minimum of 12 months but performance may be affected by “act of God” such as fire and flood.
The Starlink website also says that “like other new technology” the devices will eventually become “technically obsolete”.
“From time to time, customers will need to purchase a newer model for optimal services,” she says.
Starlink declined ABC’s request for an interview.
It’s worth noting that all satellite services are affected by humidity, says John Kitchener, technology advisor to the Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia group.
“The interruption is not so much about the rain you get at ground level as it is about the accumulative moisture that is in the troposphere in the path between the Starlink dish and any satellite,” he says.
Geddes says if you live in an area where fixed-line or wireless NBN services are available, it can be much cheaper than Starlink.
“The fixed line generally travels through copper or fiber,” he says.
“Fixed wireless technology is delivered via a tower near the edge of town and can cover a distance of about 14 kilometers and you have an antenna on your roof that receives and transmits.”
If neither of these services are offered in your area, he suggests mobile broadband, which includes discovering the Internet from your phone to your computer or using a wireless router to connect.
“Mobile broadband, 3G, 4G and 5G technologies, there is no limit to the number of people that can use it in an area,” says Geddes.
“So what eventually happens is that too many users connect and it becomes congested and hinders performance.”
Another option is NBN’s Sky Muster satellite service.
“It tends to be…a prime choice for people who have limited options,” Geddes says.
Critics complain that Sky Muster products have data limits, which means users can’t access unlimited video streams and download speeds are nowhere near as fast as Starlink.
But advocates say if you’re not interested in streaming huge amounts of Netflix, Sky Muster allows reasonable internet access in places that previously struggled to get the service.
Watch this story on landline on ABC TV at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, or on iview.