Broadband Internet

Why are download limits so high?

You will find that when you exceed a download limit and then start paying by the megabyte the normal fee hovers around the 15-cent mark -- but this varies with some operators charging slightly more. The main reason for this is because the most Internet traffic in Australia is directed at US sites. The problem with this is that the cost of sending information undersea is expensive. So these high tariffs imposed by the undersea cable operators are then passed onto the broadband service provider who then passes these on to users.

What is the acceptable use policy?

With most Internet services, subscribers are expected to sign a contract to cover the usage of these services. When signing up to a broadband service, this is known as an acceptable use policy. In other words it is a code of conduct.

Some of the conditions subscribers must adhere to when signing such a policy is not to knowingly transmit a computer virus or disrupt the network, illegal acts such as accessing another person's computer system or sending bulk unsolicited e-mail. A copy of the ISP's acceptable use policy should be available on their Web site.

What service level guarantees (if any) do you supply with this service?

In the residential broadband space, very few ISPs provide service level guarantees for their ADSL broadband service. Business plans will tend to offer a more reliable service, and guarantee a certain level of performance from the network. This guarantee will be up to the ISP. Most of the equipment provided by the ISP will be covered by a warranty (the length of which will depend on the contract you have signed up for).

What level of customer support do I receive?

Again, this will depend on the individual ISP, as well as the plan you select. Business customers can expect a higher level of support than residential users, but they will pay more for the privilege.

How long does it take to install?

For DSL services, ISPs suggest it will take around 15 working days to have the entire installation process completed (this can however, stretch out to four weeks depending on the availability of the required modem, or the number of subscribers in the queue to be connected). Note: broadband in a box customers are also subject to these waiting times. Cable customers on the other hand are able to hop onto the service immediately after it has been installed.

Do I get a discount if I already have an existing phone account?

ISPs that offer other services such as Internet or telephony often have special deals in place for existing customers who want to sign up to broadband, so it's worth checking these out to see what kind of deal you are entitled to. For example, Telstra and Optus customers can receive discounts on the monthly costs for broadband services if they have existing telephony accounts or cable TV. Other ISPs may waive the costs of installing the service if you are already a dial-up customer.

How long is the service plan?

The length of the service plan you select can also have a bearing on the amount you pay for the installation of the service. Generally, the longer the contract, the cheaper the cost of installation will be (the difference between a three-month and 18-month contract can be over $100). Bear in mind, if you wish to cancel the service, ISPs will charge a cancellation fee (this is usually worked out on the proportion of months you had remaining on the contract -- much like a mobile phone bill).

What system requirements do I need?

- ADSL system requirements

For a PC connection, you will need a 200MHz or higher Pentium processor, with a Windows operating system (with the exception of Telstra, who can support Windows 95, you will need Windows 98 or up). The amount of RAM you require to run the service will depend on the operating system you use: for example, users with Windows 98 will need 16MB-64MB of RAM, while Windows 2000 and ME users will need 64MB RAM. All users will also need between 20MB-150MB of free hard disk space, as well as either a USB or Ethernet port (depending on the modem).

Mac users are recommended to have a Power PC or iMac, and require 20MB free hard disk space as well as an Ethernet connection. Mac OS users will need 12MB RAM, while Mac OSX users will require 128MB RAM in order to access an ADSL service.

Both Mac and PC users need to have a CDROM drive for the installation software.

- Cable system requirements

System requirements for cable services are similar, and Windows users will need a system with similar RAM specifications as those mentioned above. Cable services will require 125MB-150MB of free hard disk space (although Windows XP users under the Optus cable plan will need 500MB of free hard disk space). All cable modems for Windows connect through to your PC via either a PCI slot or USB port, so users will also need to have a spare USB port, while Macintosh users will need to have an Ethernet connection.

- Can I use Linux?

Cable and ADSL providers do not officially support Linux, but that doesn't mean you can't use the service with this operating system.

The Optus cable service uses DHCP to allocate IP addresses to users. DHCP is a standard protocol for allocating IP addresses on Ethernet networks, and has been used in small and large office networks for years. All you need to do to switch your Optus service to your Linux computer is configure a UNIX DHCP client with the correct DHCP id.You also need to ensure your network card is set up correctly for Linux.

Telstra cable users will need to configure their Linux machines for Telstra's home-grown protocol known as the "BPA heartbeat". This program provides user/password login control, as well as regular network checks, but was designed for the officially supported platforms only -- not Linux. To address this problem, a Telstra user has developed a replacement program called BPALogin. More information on BPALogin and a copy of the program can be downloaded from the BPA Login Web site.

While Linux is not officially supported by ISPs offering ADSL services, the PPPoE protocol (more on this below) used in ADSL technology to connect users to the service is well supported by Linux. Again, it's just a matter of configuring the PPPoE client to suit your Linux setup.

More information on both of these processes can also be found on the Whirlpool Web site.

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