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Broadband Roulette 22 May 2002 Edition
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Broadband access is critical to the continued growth of the Net and the services provided through it.

When it comes to using DSL however, whether you actually get a broadband connection or not appears to be something of a gamble.

In recent days there have been some rather interesting ups and downs for DSL users.

A few days ago many users of the Telecom JetStart service were delighted to find that the normal bandwidth limit of 128Kbps was removed and they were able to get transfer rates normally only seen by their JetStream cousins.

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Unfortunately for some, not all JetStart users were able to enjoy the sudden increase in speed. In fact some DSL users were downright angry that their service was slower than a wet week in July.

A couple of readers contacted me to complain that they were getting slower speeds from their DSL connection than they'd expect from a dial-up -- a lot slower.

Some of these problems are allegedly the result of small ISPs being caught out by the sudden increase in subscribers that occurred following the closure of ZFree, others are doubtless due to Telecom's (mis)management of the DSL network.

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With the imminent demise of JetStart, there appears to be no uncapped DSL services available in NZ so it is timely to restate the risks associated with DSL usage.

At present, using DSL is not only a bit of a gamble in respect to the speeds and availability of consistent service, but also represents an "open chequebook" situation.

While Telecom does offer a "warning call" service to advise DSL users when they're about to reach their cap -- several people have complained that the call came too late for them to avoid a big bill for excess traffic.

In this respect the warning-call service may be worse than useless -- lulling people in to a false sense of security at the very time they (or some hacker) is racking up a huge bill on their behalf.

And how long before another worm is let loose on the Net and starts bombarding poor unfortunate DSL users with gigabytes of data -- also running up a huge bill that isn't the user's fault.

Your fancy firewall won't help you -- unless things have changed recently Telecom regards all traffic delivered to your DSL modem to count against your monthly cap or to be billable if that cap is exceeded.

Perhaps the Aussies have a better idea when it comes to capping broadband traffic and costs...

Optus have decided to deal with the problem by simply throttling its broadband users back to a miserly 28.8Kbps once their monthly cap is reached.

Of course this would be a bit of a pain but I suspect that for most people it's a much better option than finding out they have an unexpected four-figure bill for excess data.

Now some questions...

How is your ISP holding up? Are you still getting an adequate level of performance from your dial-up or DSL connection?

What type of protection would you like to see against unexpected DSL bills due to over-cap use or DOS attacks?

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