Opinion: Pick a modem, any modem

By Ian Yates on May 13, 2008 10:13 AM
Filed under Hardware

The good news is that Telstra has decided to get its broadband modems from Aussie outfit Netcomm in the near future. The bad news is two-fold.

First off, we’re going to get another modem to deal with. And secondly, it’s not going to happen overnight. But it will happen. And for the remaining bad news, we’ll have to wait until the first batch ships.

That’s not a sleight against Netcomm’s excellent line of products – that’s a worry about what Telstra will demand the company does to the things before they are shipped. Capital T along with most major ISPs have a history of talking perfectly good broadband modems and getting them pre-hacked to fit their idea of how a good modem should behave. Understandable, since they’re the people who have to manage the suckers when they’re deployed in the field.

And, for Joe or Jane Average home user, that’s probably a good thing. However, for the average small business user it’s a royal pain in the backend. Of course Telstra will advise SMBs to take up their “business” grade services but the reality is that most won’t because it costs more money, and most don’t yet rely on the Internet to the extent that they’ll pay extra to keep it alive. For most SMBs the Internet is a sort of nice-to-have service rather than an essential service.

Of course, VoIP and other useful technologies are starting to shift the Internet from ‘nice’ to ‘must’ be available, but until then, SMBs and SOHO users want the cheapest rate they can get and that means broadband modems which have been ‘doctored’ are going to get ‘hacked’ by techies trying to restore all the hidden functionality. It used to be easy – just swap the thing for your own favourite flavour of modem – but that option is rapidly disappearing as ISPs tie their service to specific kit.

What’s needed is a three-tier ISP offering. Home users, business users and something in between. A home user style service with a flag which says “has their own nerd”. Once flagged, then the support centre would be able to demand to speak with their in-house or on-call “nerd” before trying to connect to some strange modem or a non-standard setup on one of the ISPs modems. Sounds easy, but is probably harder to implement. Any ISPs out there prepared to give it a go?
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Opinion: Pick a modem, any modem
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