Broadband basics guide

Make sense of the bits and bytes.
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Broadband is a high speed connection to the internet. It’s called 'broad' because it allows a large amount of data to flow between your computer and the outside world, which makes it possible to use your internet connection for data-intensive things such as watching video. It also reduces the delay in loading pages.

In this report we tell you what you need to know in order to choose a broadband plan. This includes the types of packages (ADSL, cable, satellite, etc), the providers, speed options, data caps, installation, contracts, customer service, and more. See also our 2009 ISP satisfaction survey.

Please note: this information was current as of April 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

In brief

  • It’s important to estimate your potential data usage before you commit to a plan — see Choosing a plan.
  • Contracts can be complicated. It’s worth reading the fine print to make sure you don’t get locked into an outdated service — see Contracts.
  • Broadband prices are usually calculated on data use, rather than time online — see Doing the numbers.
  • Customer service is an important factor and the big players don’t always get it right — see ISP satisfaction survey.


The more information you have the better informed you are, especially when it comes to broadband.

  • ISPs often provide an online tool that allows you to keep track of how many megabytes you have left.
  • Some plans are called unlimited, but really mean you can have a large amount of data (usually more than 10GB) before you’re shaped.
  • Plans change often, so keep a close eye on what ISPs are offering. If a plan changes just after you’ve purchased it, you may be able to move to the new plan if it’s to your advantage.
  • VOIP is potentially cheaper than a fixed line telephone, but may have lower sound quality or a delay. Also, if there’s a power blackout you can’t make 000 calls and will lose your phone connection.
  • If you’re having trouble with an ISP the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) offers some helpful information, or contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) if you want to make a complaint.


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