Thanks to Lucas Johnson for his thoroughly review of the Australian state of Affairs and ISPs, for more of his work check out his detailed Digital Pacific Review to learn what hosting works in 2017.
As far as internet speeds go, bureaucratic, industrialized, rich nations have a tendency to stand at the top of the list. Only a brief look at the Akamai State of the Internet Report’s data on the average internet speeds around the world will prove this to anyone. South Korea still stands proudly at the top of the list, with 26mb/s, closely followed by other technocratic nations like Sweden, Hong Kong, and Switzerland. However, near the bottom of the top 50 nations on this list, sits a surprisingly slow Australia, at an average speed of 10.1mb/s. Panting and coughing in the dust behind far poorer nations like Bulgaria, Romania, and Kenya. A skype call with your grandmother from Brisbane will be far more muddled, slow, and fragile than one with your aunt in Nairobi.
It’s tempting to speculate that Australia’s internet problems may come, in part, from it’s geography. After all, the majority of servers hosted by the most-trafficked websites in the internet are in Europe and the American west coast. This theory, however, clearly contradicts the data. New Zealand, a nation even further from these server hubs, has a respectable internet speed of 12.9Mbps.
The story of how Australia ended up with awful internet service is one of monopolies and bad government policy. Back in 2013, a change of governmental policy started to speed up already existing plans to bring better broadband internet to Australia, urban and rural, in two ways. First by substituting the pre existing plans of running fiber-optic wires directly to homes and businesses with the one to instead utilize pre existing copper wires on the “Last Mile” of the network, referring to the connection between the larger network and individual homes and businesses. This was the first mistake.
In the second chapter of the Australian government’s corner-cutting bonanza, the government-owned broadband network Telco was entirely sold off to private buyers in an attempt to reduce costs for taxpayers. This was the second mistake. Telco (then renamed Telstra) quickly became the reigning monopoly, controlling nearly every tower and cable in Australia. By pricing out any smaller ISP’s that might challenge them and paying lip service to Australia’s related regulatory bodies, Telstra was able to kick back, shaded from the reforming rays of competition.
As of now, the problems with internet service in Australia are not being rectified. In May of this year, the ACCC (the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) declined an opportunity to allow smaller ISP’s access to Telstra’s towers, securing their monopoly on Australian internet, and the status quo.
Not all is lost, however. Though Australia’s internet lags behind the competition, the average internet speeds in Australia have nearly doubled since 2013. Worldwide, almost every nation on earth is seeing exponential growth in average connection speeds, and Australia is no exception to the rule.
Don’t give up on Australia’s government, either. Australia is internationally famous for it’s progressive and disruptive policies, from it’s world-class healthcare system to it’s harsh regulations on the tobacco industry. It isn’t at all difficult to imagine Australia cracking down on Telstra and reforming the ACCC in the near future, especially as Australians come to expect more from their online services, and poor internet connection proves damaging to the Australian economy.