Living where I live (i.e., slightly less than 100Km from Sydney city centre), we cannot get “proper” broadband. No cable company flogs its wares in our neighbourhood; no local telelphone exchange is equipped for anything more than tin-can-and-string telephony, so ADSL is right off the options list! Our phone lines are so bad, we can’t even get ISDN -and that’s supposed to be accessible by 98% of the population! In desperation, we use Wireless Broadband, courtesy of Telstra Bigpond.
The plans available are enough to make you cry: the best I get is a 10GB monthly download limit for an eye-watering $129. Once you hit 10GB, there’s no extra data allowance available for purchase (and, in fairness, no extra charges): you just get shaped to speeds that would make a lethargic snail look sprightly. Friends and colleagues remark casually about their 200GB plans for $90 and wonder why I walk away in a hurry!
Nevertheless, I am generally happy with Bigpond: the connection seems always-on for about 95% of the time; the reception is good; speeds are excellent; and, when I need to, I can pack the whole thing, together with my netbook, and have Internet access on the morning train. Convenient, speedy, reliable -what more could you want (apart from more bandwidth and lower costs!)?
And my feeble 10GB allowance goes a lot further than you might think, thanks to the wonders of files.bigpond.com. Here, you’ll find Linux distro ISOs galore, a yum or apt-get update repository for the likes of Ubuntu or Fedora… and every single byte of this data munificence is completely unmetered, meaning that none of it counts in any way towards your 10GB monthly limit. Some months, therefore, I’ll actually download in excess of 25 or 30GB of stuff: 10GB on the ‘plan’ and maybe 20GB from files.bigpond.com, which magically ‘doesn’t count’!
Cue the inevitable sting in the tail: on June 30th, with all of three days’ notice, files.bigpond.com was taken down. No more unmetered access to anything… and therefore about 2/3rds of my effective monthly download limit abolished, at a stroke. This, as you can imagine, did not make for the happiest day of my life when I found out about it the moment I tried to download a new Fedora 13 ISO and kept getting redirected to the Bigpond home page. (Why they couldn’t email us to warn us, I have no idea: they’re happy enough to email a notification every time a phone bill arrives, after all!)
This was actually a deal-breaker for me. A loss of effective functionality so severe meant that I was fed up enough to go find another ISP. Actually, it turns out that there isn’t a single ISP in Australia that offers unmetered downloads for wireless broadband accounts, which is a bummer of major proportions! But there are lots of ISPs who will sell you a 6GB plan for $50 or so, with extra 6GB data blocks available on demand for about the same price (think Internode, for example). Once you’ve resigned yourself to never having access to unmetered downloads again, it’s a simple calculation to work out that Internode will sell you 12GB for $100, compared to Bigpond’s 10GB for $130: it’s not hard to work out where to go to!
The only thing you can hold against Internode is that they use the Optus wireless network, which is half the speed of Telstra’s on a good day -and I’ve had reception difficulties with them in the past (though their coverage maps now indicate a lot of that should be ancient history). But still, more data for less money: what’s not to like?!
More out of a sense of duty than actually expecting a decent reply, I took the trouble to write to the Bigpond sales people in these terms: I like Bigpond’s wireless service; I don’t want to change providers; but without that unmetered content, your product is sub-standard and non-competitive. Please tell me some good news that means I won’t have to change.
The usual two days’ wait for a reply ticked by.
Then yesterday, I got it: dear Howard, please be advised that we’ve made http://mirror.aarnet.edu.au unmetered.
Well, this a game-changer …and very, very unexpected (it’s always unexpected when Telstra/Bigpond actually listen to their customers!) Aarnet is an excellent mirror -much better, in fact, than the original files.bigpond.com. It has all the appropriate distros in DVD ISO format (
apart from Centos, which is a bit of a bummer), and yum and apt-get repositories for updates. CPAN is there, so is Mozilla, Apache and a lot of others. For that to be unmetered makes me even happier than I was before and renders any thought of moving to the likes of Internode completely moot. Well done, Bigpond!
Which begs the question, I suppose: why pull the plug on a valuable resource, only to put the plug back in after you’ve pissed off a significant proportion of your customers? If it’s that easy to unmeter a site like aarnet, why not arrange to do that first, and then announce that since a gold-plated unmetered site is now available, there’s no need for the home-brew bronze alloy version? It would have been the sensible thing to do, I think (unless they simply had no idea about their customers and honestly weren’t expecting the storm of protest and discontent their original switch-off decision provoked).
It reminds me a bit of Julia Gillard’s approach to being Prime Minister: announce a regional processing centre for refugees in East Timor one day and only then start negotiating with the government of that country as to whether it’s actually possible to do! Surely the negotiations might usefully have preceded the announcement? But then that would mean having to hold off on the announcement whilst the practicalities were nailed down. It’s always harder to actually achieve something (i.e., actually do some governing!) and then announce it than the other way around, of course: which is presumably why it’s so often the other way around these days!
Anyway, Bigpond get at least half a thumbs-up from me for being relatively nimble in their ability to turn a mess of their own making into a positive. And I shall now get back to downloading some more ISOs… unmetered!