by Jeremy Malcolm, Internet lawyer
Access to broadband Internet is transforming the way we work, play and collaborate online. But there is a real "information divide" between those who do and those who don't have access to broadband services. Many of those who have been told they cannot obtain an ADSL service for technical reasons feel understandably aggrieved about that, but is there anything they can do about it, or is it just hard luck?
Telstra does have an obligation to provide every household in Australia on request with a digital data service. However, this is only required to be at the speed of 64 kilobits per second, which although faster than an ordinary analogue modem, is slower than ADSL, and can also be more expensive. Usually, this minimum obligation is fulfilled by supplying an ISDN service or, in remote areas, a satellite connection (for which a 50% rebate of installation costs may be available).
Without paying for one of these services, the only legal right that you have is to an ordinary telephone service, which is only required to support a communications speed well under half the capacity of a 56k modem. Clearly, except for those in remote areas of Australia, there are far better options available from a variety of providers to deliver true broadband access at fair prices.
Unfortunately, if your connection to the telephone network won't support faster services such as ADSL, either due to your remoteness or due to technical issues with your telephone line, you don't presently have a legal right to do anything about it. The only way this is likely to change is if people on that side of the information divide can convince their political representatives to do something about it.