Some regional Queenslanders have grown just a little cynical about government promises of a National Broadband Network connecting them at high speeds to the rest of the world. But we’re not being left behind this time.

Toowoomba is a first-release site and crews of installers are busy feeding underground steel cables in suburban streets beginning, as luck would have it, with my street.

The first worker I met was peering down a Telstra pit at the now-obsolete copper wire network, waiting for a cable to be threaded through by a colleague two doors down. The steel cable will be used to thread the optical fibre when it arrives in a few months.

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“Scrapping the copper seems like such a waste,” I told him. He agreed. “We’re leaving it down there.”

Sense seems to prevail, at least at the coal face.

I continued my daily walk, musing that it doesn’t seem very long ago that dial-up internet was a luxury that revolutionised work and play for computer users, despite the high-pitched aggravating dial tone. We didn’t mind putting on a kettle and making coffee in those days while a picture downloaded. Pictures were big files, after all.

How our demands have changed.

And only a couple of years ago, new houses in our housing estate in north-east Toowoomba did not even qualify to receive ADSL cables when we aspired to speeds faster than dial-up could deliver, because there were not enough houses here to justify the cost of the upgrade.

Then a Telstra worker gave some locals a heads-up that a limited number of ADSL connections would be made available the following week. They were subscribed within a few minutes.  Now we are promised even bigger and better connection speeds and services.

The NBN will roll out optical fibre to 93% of premises in Australia. In regional and rural areas, wireless will serve 4% and satellite 3% of homes and business premises. Geographically, the “fibre to the premises” connections will cover a tiny fraction of the state.

NBN Co’s maps indicate tiny bright orange blobs where fibre cable will be installed in metropolitan and regional centres in Queensland. Around these, grey shadows show where the fibre gives way to fixed wireless connections and, beyond those, a light grey shadow lies over the vast majority of the state, which will be serviced by satellite connections. In addition, two main bright-blue transit links run up the Queensland coast and diagonally across the outback to Mount Isa linking cities and towns.

The prospect of being connected to this high-speed broadband network in the next few months sent me scurrying for information — how much will the NBN improve connection speeds and what will be the cost?

My tech-savvy son-in-law showed me how to find out my current connection speed at www.speedtest.net. The current download speed with ADSL is 5.42Mbps (megabits per second) and the upload speed is .22 Mbps. The NBN website promises connection speeds from 12Mbps up to 100Mbps, depending on the network design, computer hardware and software and the number of users who are online.  NBN promises to at least double my speed and possibly increase it to 18 times faster.

What about the cost?

My current Elite Liberty 100GB ADSL plan is $89.95 a month, less a $10 credit for a preselection discount (whatever that is). Telstra NBN-linked plans and pricing have not been finalised yet but Optus released its plans last Thursday.

Its nearest equivalent plan delivers 120GB for $59.99 per month with the option to add multimedia for an extra $10 a month or multimedia eXtream for $20 a month. So, for about the same cost, the NBN promises to deliver a far superior service at a similar cost.

Roll on the roll-out.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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