It felt like forever that we haven’t been able to access our US-based servers, the Internet, the World Wide Web and our email accounts or make phone calls due to a catastrophic failure of Telstra’s inadequate, ageing underground copper wire network but we are finally back online here at Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success.
A Telstra technician has just arrived to check our home phone lines again as we still don’t have a working telephone, but during the course of the last few weeks offline we learned some home truths about Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure.
Foremost is that the underground copper wire network continues to degrade under the unseasonal heavy rainstorms that have become a fixed feature of Sydney life since global warming kicked in big-time.
Although the copper wire in our local area appears to be of the correct width, it is half that width in nearby suburbs including the one across the valley where we lived in movie director Cate Shortland’s former house. There, “broadband” runs at speeds little higher than dial-up for that reason and the long distance to the nearest phone exchange.
Dial-up speeds at some of the world’s highest “broadband” prices made working from home next to impossible there so we moved across the valley to this suburb where the nearest phone exchange is much closer and where the copper wiring, we were told, is much better.
Except it is buried under soil that becomes supersaturated during heavy rains, causing the network to stop working altogether. Service can be restored each time that occurs but only after many weeks and man hours of work by Telstra technicians and contractors.
Another factor is the financial structure of the nation’s wholesale and retail telecommunications.
Telstra owns the copper network and leases access to it to competing phone and Internet access retailers like TPG at maximum speeds slower than what Telstra’s own retail customers can obtain.
When the network breaks down, Telstra’s retail customers get highest priority while the customers of Telstra’s competitors are at the bottom of the list. If a Telstra technician spots a problem with a competitor’s customer’s access, they will ignore it until specifically instructed by Telstra management to go out again and fix it. That can take weeks.
Rather than get caught up in this vicious cycle yet again, we have elected to go above ground and signed up with Telstra’s 100 Mbps (maximum) HFC service for telephone and Internet access.
Our cable access kicked into operation a couple of days ago and the download speeds are acceptable compared to what our TPG ADSL2+ access had degenerated into since moving here several years ago.
Our upload speeds are another thing again. Australia has one of the slowest ranges of upload speeds in the world.
Good enough, I suppose, for non-creatives who only want to watch Foxtel television and send the occasional email. Appalling for creative people who need to work off servers and Internet services and websites based in the United States and other parts of the world.
That problem is becoming more acute as media production movies into ever larger formats for stills and video.
Now that Panasonic has released its Lumix GH5 4K stills/video camera overseas to incredible pre-order numbers, more creatives will be shooting, editing, uploading and sharing more 4K DCI and UHD movie files than ever before.
The GH5 is capable of 6K video through its 6K Photo mode and moviemakers have already begun shooting and sharing in that format.
Recently I had to bite the bullet and began uploading photographs as full-size JPEGs at 100% quality due to overseas customer and publisher demand.
Uploading 4K video over our new cable connection takes hours, locking up the system. Uploading a set of 100%-quality full-size JPEGs is just as painful.
Our nearest Apple Store is going to be seeing far more of us now, flash drives in hand, sending videos and photographs to US servers so we can continue working on Untitled and other projects as well as begin servicing clients and publishers.
If the Australian federal government is operating under the aim of turning all Australians into media consumers only while killing off independent media creation in this country then they are succeeding admirably.
Let’s hope that we are not forcibly connected to the NBN anytime soon, thus losing whatever speed gains we recently obtained via HFC.
Right now we have a great deal of catching up to do with content at Untitled, so please bear with us.
Coming soon. Things get better and things get worse with telecommunications and self-financing.