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Up to speed: Small towns quick to download

The latest analysis of results from ZDNet’s Broadband SpeedTest show the fastest DSL connections are in small regional towns that have their own phone exchange. City suburbs are nowhere close to reaching their top speeds.
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor

You'd imagine that life in the city would provide the best chance of a decent internet connection, but small, regional towns with their own phone exchanges are a much better bet.

There are only 500 people living in Manildra, for example. It's a small NSW town midway between Orange and Parkes, but it has its own ADSL2+-enabled phone exchange, and the small number of tests taken on the ZDNet Broadband Speed Test between February and September this year averaged 17.7Mbps.

It's a similar story in Wallaroo, the little port town on the western edge of the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. There's an ADSL2+-enabled exchange serving just a few thousand people, most of whom are only a stone's throw away, with no distance to build up resistance and compromise speed, and not many people sharing the backhaul connection to Adelaide.

The area around Crowley Vale in Queensland's Lockyer Valley has a population of just 1,600. It's so small that it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia entry, but it does have an ADSL2+ phone exchange, and it averaged 15.2Mbps from the 24 ZDNet broadband speed tests we tracked.

It's the same across all of our top speed locations; small populations with their own DSL2+ exchange:

  • Marian, home to 1,000 people, 24km inland from Mackay

  • Riverton, just 700 people in the heart of South Australia's Clare Valley

  • Monto in Queensland, birthplace of Mal Meninga, home to 1,500 people

  • Moorooduc on Victoria's Mornington Peninsular, a small town of 1,000

  • Tarwin Lower, 175 km south-east of Melbourne, with just 115 people

  • Dunolly, heart of Victoria's goldfields, home to just 1,000.

In each case, the exchange serves far beyond the towns themselves, but most of the population is situated just a block or two away.

It's a different story, of course, for country folk who are forced to make do with the exchanges located in neighbouring towns. Our bottom 10 postcodes comprise nearly 100 tests barely reaching 1Mbps. The only positive take-out for these people is that they'll never exceed their download limit — and, if they do, they probably wouldn't even notice that their speed had been throttled.

Big-city folk sit somewhere between the two extremes. No suburban location made it into our top 10, and there would be hell to pay if they made it to the bottom of the list.

In Double Bay, home to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, users get an average of 8.3Mbps. That's well above the country's average of 5.6Mbps (averaged from all of our DSL speed tests), and far above the result from Whittlesea, the heart of the prime minister's electorate, where speeds average 4.7Mbps.

The answer for Julia Gillard is simple. If the speed isn't to your liking, go bush! Find a small town with its own DSL2+ exchange, and enjoy the ride.

How we measured results: we took all ZDNet Broadband Speed Test results measured between February and September 2012. They were filtered by those specifying a DSL connection. Results that exceeded 20Mbps were also screened out. A count was made by postcode, then only those with more than three tests were included in the analysis.

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