Cable modem: The sequel

Cable modem: The sequel

I'm clearly a glutton for punishment. Some of you may recall a column last year when I wrote of my ordeal in trying (unsuccessfully) to get Telstra Big Pond cable Internet access to my home. If you don't recall, here's a short refresher.

I signed on for Foxtel cable TV at least in part because the brochure said I would also be able to get high-speed Internet access. However, when I actu-ally tried to get the Net access, I was told I would have to get a second cable installed. This would mean punching a second hole through the wall, paying a second installation fee, etc. This of course leads one to ask what the benefit of connecting to Foxtel for cable Internet access is - I could have paid for the fast Internet without having to endure repeats of The Brady Bunch.

Yes, I know what you're saying - I don't actually have to watch repeats of The Brady Bunch if I don't want to. I refer you to the opening sentence of this column.

It also left me questioning, loudly and repeatedly, why a second hole needed to be punched in the wall. The cable leading from the street to the house is the one that will carry both Internet and TV. Outside the wall of my home is a little grey box which does magical switching and weird network stuff, sending TV signals one way and Internet signals another. The Internet cable would lead out of that box (as does the TV cable) and through a hole in the wall to my computer.

I simply want to know why the cable cannot lead straight from the street into my home, where the grey box could sit quite inconspicuously amongst the piles of other techie junk with both cables leading out of it.

Only one hole in the wall, and no landlady to placate with ridiculous lies about how it will improve the future value of the house. Ever known a house with a hole in the wall to be worth more than a house with no hole in the wall? Me neither.

I also wondered at the time why it was necessary, in getting one of these high-speed accounts, to purchase a quite expensive cable modem. Since the sole supplier of the equipment was also the sole provider of the service, I saw it as abuse of monopoly power. Basically, if I sign on for this service, and then later decide I don't want it any more, I become the proud owner of a useless cable modem. Sure, such a device could also sit quite inconspicuously amongst the piles of techie junk, but it would niggle at me how expensive it had been. I don't own my telephone, and I don't own the Foxtel set-top box, so why should I be stuck with a modem?

I asked these questions of Telstra's cable people. I asked repeatedly and I asked often. After false starts too numerous to mention, including a visit to my home by an `engineer' who was, in fact, a salesperson with no technical background, I decided the whole thing was too darn much fuss.

However, I have of late found a need to be online at home more often than I used to in the past. I won't go into the gory details of why, just trust me on it. I tried having a second phone line put in especially for dialling into the Net, but that was a disaster I might share with you another time (highlight of the day was having no phone number of my own, but having someone else's calls diverted to my place - terrific fun).

Coincidentally, at the same time as I am looking again towards alternative means of Internet access, Telstra is offering a near-irresistible deal on cable accessThe fees per month are cheaper, and the modem is thrown in for nothing. I don't know if this means I get to keep the modem or if it remains Telstra's, but frankly I don't care.

If I decide not to use the service anymore, the cable modem will be useless, and I don't think the Smith Family will want it.

My landlady is still primed from the last attempt to connect - still starry-eyed about the fabulous future value of her house with walls of Swiss cheese. So I've decided to try again - Cable Modem II: the Odyssey Continues. I've even made the first move: I called Telstra to organise connection. I spoke with someone called Dave at Big Pond who told me that before anything else could happen, I would have to fill out the application form - on the Web site. So the only customers Telstra wants for this service are those who already have Internet access? I have a feeling it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Matthew JC. Powell does, luckily, have Internet access from home. Try it out at

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