Large internet service providers Internode and Netspace yesterday committed to ramp up offerings in Tasmania as soon as the Basslink fibre cable was switched on. But doubts remain about how likely this is to actually happen.
Network partners Basslink, Aurora Energy and the Tasmanian Government yesterday said they expected the cable to start providing commercial services in the first half of 2009, after finalising long-running negotiations regarding the terms under which the cable could operate.
"Internode will be happy to be the first to order services on the new system once we can actually do so," the ISP's managing director Simon Hackett told ZDNet.com.au. Internode had significantly ramped down its offerings in the state earlier this year due to what it said were exorbitant prices charged by the state's sole provider Telstra for backbone data carriage to Melbourne.
"We hope that this will happen soon, as each upgrade Internode makes to its existing capacity with Telstra at their 'monopoly rent' prices causes us to lose ever-increasing monthly sums of money, just to keep our prices at 'mainland' rates for our existing customers," Hackett added.
The executive said Internode would return to offering ADSL2+ broadband to Tasmanians as soon as it could access the Basslink data carriage. It was also likely, he said, that the ISP would be able to expand its ADSL2+ footprint in the state, due to what it expected to be a greatly improved financial situation for ISPs in the state following the Basslink cable going live.
Netspace managing director Stuart Marburg congratulated the stakeholders on the deal and said with better backbone pricing to the state it could augment its own infrastructure in Tasmania.
"We have commenced our planned investment in Tasmania," he said. "Specifically, we've commenced installation of the equipment required for ADSL2+ and highspeed broadband in the Hobart and Launceston exchanges."
Tasmanians can pre-register their interest in the Netspace rollout on a website the ISP has set up for the purpose.
However, Hackett also appeared to express doubts about the future of the cable.
"Internode has been waiting for Basslink to come to fruition for a long time," he said. "We have seen many promises about commissioning dates come and go for this cable system. The announcement today, while very welcome, comes with no revised commissioning date — it is announcing a signature, not a working cable system."
Consumer action group Digital Tasmania, which has long been agitating for better broadband in the island state, issued a statement saying it welcomed the deal, although it was a "catch-up agreement" with no firm availability date for services.
"We call on the State Government to set a timeframe for activation, and continue efforts to construct a second independent connection across Bass Strait to provide reliable competitive access to the information super-highway," said the group's spokesman Andrew Connor. "It is this reliability that is essential for Tasmania to attract large-scale IT centric businesses such as call centres and datacentres."