Good bag of feedback to today's Webwalk column which was in turn based on the deluge of feedback to the last story I wrote about broadband. The horror stories keep pouring in. Microsoft's response to Peter Gutmann's criticisms of the DRM features of Windows Vista, is the subject of this Herald story I wrote in today's paper.

T Bridges writes:
Seems as though this article further edifies the current Mac OS 10.4 and the up-coming 10.5 as far superior operating systems. Seems as though Vista is yet just another buggy, inferior OS.If you have used Mac OS 10.4 yourself, you would conclude it is far superior technically and aesthetically to Windows XP, and gathering from what I've seen and read thus far, Mac OS 10.5 is simply gonna blow Vista out of the water, even Microsoft have clearly have attempted to (poorly) imitate features of MAc OS 10.5 in Vista

And finally, here I am on ASB Business for the first time, talking about a silly decision by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission to float the idea that consumers who do not protect themselves online with a minimum level of security software, should be liable if their money is swiped in a phishing scam. It sounds like the worst idea ever and even the NAB and Commonweath Bank and the Australian Bankers Association has already come out and said they don't intend to follow through on it.

Anyway, was worth getting out of bed early to discuss it...

Peter Griffin: Fibre's needed in our backbone, not lowly copper
Thursday January 25, 2007By Peter Griffin
Peter Griffin
The news media are often a good gauge of public opinion - and a sounding board for what's really annoying people.

In the past that has been everything from bank fees and leaky buildings to high petrol prices and crazy waterfront stadium schemes.

But if the stream of messages sent to the Herald by readers these days is anything to go by, slow and unreliable broadband is the current bugbear of the masses.

On an almost daily basis I personally receive broadband horror stories from readers. The pattern is familiar: a user upgrades from dial-up to broadband to free up the phone line and surf the web faster. The promised speeds aren't delivered, so the customer complains, receives shocking customer service and gets angry and distrustful of broadband providers.
Take the case of Sione Tu'akoi:

"Three weeks ago we decided to move our internet from Clearnet dial-up and signed up with Xtra broadband. To our horror the Xtra broadband speed is slower than Clearnet dialup connection," he wrote.

Despite complaining, speed testing his line and sending the results to the Xtra experts, Sione hasn't heard a bean back from them - and he's furious.
Ian Mead owns a computer business and says he is well able to identify with what he calls "Telecom's wholesale failure to deliver".

"My customers frequently complain that, to them, it seems they are being pushed from dialup to ADSL and receiving heftier bills for a similar service which is not what broadband is supposed to be."

Others are angry that the speed at which you can upload data to the internet is limited on many plans offered by internet providers, to 128Kbps. That makes sending large files a tediously slow process and is a problem for many small businesses who are increasingly exchanging documents and photographs online.

Many factors influence what broadband connection speeds you get and it is not always Telecom's fault if the pipe isn't delivering what was promised.
But enough dissatisfaction has been voiced since Telecom and its competitors dramatically increased maximum download speeds last year to suggest there's a gap between the promise of broadband and what is being delivered.

As a result, the internet industry risks alienating customers, just as they expect them to start paying more for web access.

Telecom's competitors are itching to take advantage of local loop unbundling to take business off Telecom.

"The year will bring early access to Telecom's copper and the ability to provide a truly differentiated offer to consumers," iHug boss Mark Rushworth told the Herald last week.
But will these different services mean better services, and more specifically, better and more reliable download speeds?

No, says a former Telecom engineering consultant, who spent 10 years working for the company but does not wish to be identified.
"ADSL was developed in the US by Bell Labs, in the mid 1990s, as an interim measure before the telcos needed to install optic fibre cable to all subscribers," he said.

"The telcos here and overseas found they could make a quick buck from the perception, by the customer, that they were getting a high-speed internet connection."
In other words, as long as we're relying on Telecom's copper wires, we're going to be a frustrated bunch of web surfers.

No national residential fibre network has ever been laid by Telecom and while TelstraClear installed a hybrid fibre cable network in parts of Wellington and Christchurch, it was thwarted in reaching the Auckland market when its plans to string overhead fibre cables through the suburbs met with resistance in 2002.

Laying fibre now isn't out of the question, but it's so expensive to do that no telco, Telecom included, would approach such a project with enthusiasm.

The former Telecom consultant for one thinks wireless technologies such as WiMAX, a faster and longer-range alternative to Wi-Fi hotspots, are the only hope. Internet providers like CallPlus, Woosh and NZWireless agree. They're all using WiMAX and envisage it offering an alternative to Telecom's copper wire network. TelstraClear has spent upwards of $50 million building a wireless network in Tauranga with similar aims.

Industry analysts have long pointed out that the inherent delay or "latency" in wireless transmission will never make it an effective technology to deliver demanding services such as high-quality internet telephony, internet TV services, video on demand and real-time gaming.
This year will see two different approaches from internet providers as some focus on making the best of Telecom's copper while others look for alternatives in new technology.
Serious money and market share is at stake.

In the meantime, keep on the case of your ISP if your broadband is flaky. Arm yourself with the results of your speed tests and get used to that on-hold music. At least you can take comfort in the fact that many others are doing exactly the same.

Andrew wrote:
Liked the story on the need for fibre. Apart from all the general lack of service and support, xtra are also cheating on their usage agreement. The go large traffic management policy says "So if you are using the Go Large plan and run peer-to-peer applications during busy periods, we may manage the peer-to-peer and other 'non sensitive' traffic to limit the congestion it causes for other users." which appears to be a load of bollocks (unless you consider http & ftp traffic to be non sensitive). It appears that whenever their traffic shaper detects any p2p connection, even at low speed (I tried with mine throttled to 1kbs) it lowers the bandwidth for the entire connection. See
for a few others experiencing the same thing.

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