Australian broadband among world's worst: OECD

The OECD has passed judgement on Australia's broadband in a study calling it among the slowest and most expensive in the world, however, Communications Minister Helen Coonan claims it was a "strong report card" for the nation's infrastructure.

The OECD has passed judgement on Australia's broadband in a study calling it among the slowest and most expensive in the world, however, Communications Minister Helen Coonan claims it was a "strong report card" for the nation's infrastructure.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Communications Outlook 2007 report found that Australia's broadband was among the world's most expensive and among the slowest.

The OECD report studied the average download speed for the incumbent telco -- in Australia's case Telstra -- in each of the 30 industrialised countries that are OECD members and found Australia second from bottom, beaten by the likes of Poland, Belgium and Mexico.

It doesn't seem to be dampening Aussies' enthusiasm for Web surfing, however, with the country rated as having the third highest Internet penetration in the OECD area, behind Sweden and Switzerland. However, the country only managed to scrape a middling ranking for DSL subscribers, with some 17 per 100 inhabitants at June last year.

"The quality of the Internet experience for entertainment, business and e-commerce depends upon bandwidth and ready availability," the OECD report notes.

As well as speed issues, the country is also experiencing some of the highest telecoms prices across the board, with small business fixed line bundles, SOHO fixed line bundles and some mobile phone plans found to be above the OECD average. Australians also make mobile providers more money than most other countries, generating US$634 per year per subscriber. The only other countries in the OECD area that spend more are Iceland at US$654 and Japan, at US$860.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan, however, preferred to concentrate on the upside of the report, such as Australia's relatively high level of domain name registrations per capita.

"This is an outstanding achievement considering the particular challenges of providing telecommunications access at fair prices over a vast continent with a small population," she said in a statement.

Not everyone is convinced. David Forman, chairman of the Competitive Carriers Coalition, said that Australia should be ashamed of its performance.

"The countries we are keeping company with [in broadband] are not the countries we should want to be associated with. This is a problem that has been 20 years in the making and it's only going to get worse.... If we measure ourselves in isolation then yes, prices are falling, but they're not falling fast enough [compared with the rest of the developed world] and we're not catching up," he told ZDNet Australia today.

Forman said the country has not yet reached the competitive environment needed to bolster broadband -- a problem that the coalition believes can only be solved through the structural separation of Telstra.