Tasmania Is Cut Off From The World

The Basslink cable connecting Tasmania to mainland Australia has been cut. Repair crews don't yet know exactly where the fault is, the repair bill is projected to be "phenomenal", and full power and Internet connectivity isn't expected to be fully restored until May. Customers of iiNet and Internode in particular are struggling, with services like Steam and peer-to-peer downloading throttled or blocked completely over the weekend.

Australia image via Shutterstock

After Tasmanian IT minister Michael Ferguson stepped in over the weekend, iiNet/Internode parent company TPG pledged to order more bandwidth from Telstra for its customers, through the secondary Telstra-owned cable that is currently Tasmania's only wired link to Australia and the rest of the world. That cable doesn't have anywhere near the capacity of Basslink, though, so Internet restriction and slower speeds will be a fact of life for Tasmanian internet users in the months to come.

Stephen Reid, an iiNet customer, created Is Basslink Fixed, a website that regularly reports the results of a speed test on his 100/40Mbps fibre to the premises NBN connection in Kingston south of Hobart. Over the weekend, it was reporting speeds a fraction of those available to an equivalent connection in Melbourne, and even today his link is wildly variable, sometimes falling to one per cent of his purchased plan speed. There may be enough capacity on Telstra's cable for off-peak use, but peak periods are seeing serious congestion.

DVD rentals are filling the gap left by Netflix and iTunes. But it's worse than that for gamers, with Steam downloads being blocked entirely by iiNet and Internode over the weekend and service restored only after more capacity was purchased. Peer-to-peer downloads, not only used for Bit-Torrent file sharing but also for game updates by Blizzard Entertainment, creators of popular online games like World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2, are reportedly still blocked entirely by iiNet and Internode.

Power is just as much of a problem for Tasmania as internet access is. 200 diesel generators have been shipped to the island, and old — and reportedly unreliable — gas-fired turbines are being brought back online to help meet residential demand. Around half of Tasmania's power demands are being met by the state's renewable hydroelectric dams, and wind contributes another quarter. The final 25 per cent, though, would normally be met by imported power from the mainland via Basslink, and is currently being contributed by gas and diesel power.

There's no quick fix for Basslink, and no quick fix for Tasmania — this situation will likely be ongoing for months. But online forums like Whirlpool show iiNet and Internode being especially hard hit, and several customers have already canceled their services and churned to competitors running on the Telstra network. Some Telstra customers, too, are complaining of speed 'brownouts' and dropouts during peak times.

With the Telstra cable's capacity being limited by its age and by Telstra's own wholesale pricing, and TPG reportedly delivering only 60 per cent of its required bandwidth to customers, it's almost certain that there won't be enough to go around. The government, too, is very disappointed in TPG's actions. Telstra is confident its cable can supply Tasmania with 'sufficient capacity" for home and business users, but modern conveniences like Netflix will likely be out of the question for most users until Basslink's connectivity is restored.

Are you living in Tasmania and struggling with limited or inconsistent internet speeds? Tell us in the comments.


Comments

    Yep, it's pretty slow. Although, Telstra Air is free for pre-paid users, so I just park my car next to a near by payphone when I need to watch videos or download stuff.

    I wrote a quick speedtest script which publishes the results every 5mins to my github. This is from a business 50/20 NBN Internode account (my work):
    https://github.com/humphrey/internode-basslink-speedtest/blob/master/datalive-data.csv

    And, from my home 25/5 NBN connection:
    https://github.com/humphrey/internode-basslink-speedtest/blob/master/home-data.csv

    It's very hit and miss... but at least it's above 1mbps (Which it wasn't on monday)

    Anybody is welcome to use that data how they like. I've also put the same data in JSON format in that repository.

    How long did it take to notice Tasmania was not connected anymore??

      Our clients have certainly noticed. Half our incoming VOIP calls aren't getting through!! Well, they weren't before Internode added the extra bandwidth anyway...

      Last edited 16/03/16 12:17 pm

      246 years.

    To be precise, isbasslinkfixed.com is not comparing his Kingston connection to "an equivalent connection in Melbourne", but rather comparing his speed when downloading from a local Hobart server vs a Melbourne server. You'll notice it's the Melbourne speed which is low.

      Sorry, yes, you're right. It's the Melbourne speed that is low because congestion on the line is stopping the data getting through -- so "Melbourne" on the graph is the demonstration of Tasmania's connection to the outside world via Telstra's two fibre pairs.

    Bloody Kaiju's, send the Jaegars

    I'm able to log into my playstation network account and purchase dlc (well the cost price was deducted from my wallet any way), but it won't download. Neither will any updates. So has iinet blocked these sorts of downloads?

      You gotta get on early enough. I had to update The Division to play it, but it would only work at like 5am when nobody else was really up and using the net. Connection times out otherwise. Same thing happens when I try to play Bloodborne during the day - won't connect to the servers.

    Tassie has some of the best NBN coverage in Australia... and its for naught with just one main line damaged. Thats not good planning and development... not to mention the power problem too.

    This is also a reminder for the rest of Australia too... one of the oceanic cables is damaged / cut... we instantly becone the worlds worst internet connected country.

      "...we instantly become the worlds worst internet connected country."

      Australia is already the worlds worst internet connected country....why limit NBN to 40mbps upload, have data limits???? Let alone not have NBN coverage australia wide, most other countries have had fibre networks for many years

      Um no, for the mainland - the are are many redundant links and more coming online plus deep CDN networks for streaming products both locally and very near by (eg Singapore). Poor tassie is right at the end of the pipe :( Netfix and other streaming services surprise me a bit - looks like iinet and TPG (same sausage now) perhaps did not facilitate the deployment of CDN nodes on the tassie side (akamai, netflix), which would remove redundant traffic from the undersea backhaul ?.

    Ill just leave this here http://www.speedtest.net/result/5171231074.png

    "DVD rentals are filling the gap left by Netflix and iTunes"

    I'm gobsmacked that this is still possible.

    Ayup. It's woeful. I usually watch streams.

    Under the current bandwidth, I struggle to watch youtube.
    Buffering like it's 2005.

    I had a spike of bandwidth this morning so I could download some stuff via steam. And get my singleplayer on.
    No wonder Tasmania's youth is getting out while we can.

    And people wonder why we argue for a bandwidth wholesaler who doesn't also sell retail...

    Telstra's two fibre cables have more capacity than Basslink's one.

      Unless they've only just recently upgraded every source I've found says Telstra is 2×2.5Gbps and Basslink is 640Gbps. How is 5 higher capacity than 640?

        There is heaps of capacity on the telstra cables 2.5Gbps is the quoted figure "per wavelength".

        The reason we all got shafted in Tasmania was purely a commercial one, TPG did not want to spend the money to give us an adequate service. Its pretty well trashed brand of iinet and internode in the state.

        If the author of the article could please CHECK THE FACTS.

        i

          Probably because Telstra charge around 10× what others do. Did the Tasmanian government forces Telstra to lower prices?

        Ben: I reckon that 5Gbps would just be lit capacity.
        Back in 2012 ( http://www.subtelforum.com/issues/STF%20Submarine%20Cable%20Alamanac-2012.pdf ), Bass Strait 1 had a 2.5Gbps capacity (up from its initial 622Mbps capacity when it went RFS in 1995) and Bass Strait 2 had a 10Gbps initial capacity (may be more now). Still no where near the 640Gbps that basslink had though.

        That doesn't add up, that would mean that 2,000 telstra customers only get 1.2(?)mbit/s over the existing pair of cables. There are more users using more data than that at the same time.

          I'm just talking about what I found. I even mentioned it could be out of date.

    Should secede, have your own undersea cable, tell Canberra to f*ck off, declare war on NZ

    Last edited 17/03/16 12:28 am

    I'm in Tassie with Internode, struggle to watch youtube videos atm (NBN 25mb)
    Netflix is ok as they have a Tasmanian server (Aus netflix only obviously)
    Couldn't download hearthstone update until last night, slightly better today but still very very slow

    We're on iPrimus NBN 100/40 in Hobart and we've been very fortunate with a rock solid connection and no noticeable drop in speed at any time of the day over wifi and Ethernet. Speed tests hit around lows 90s down and high 20s to low 30s up.

      Are you testing from Hobart or Melbourne though?

        In Hobart testing to both Hobart and Melbourne servers.

    Typical Whirlpoolians though...

    I CANT GET NAMEPLATE CAPACITY ON SPEEDTEST.NET FOR THE LAST 5 MINUTES. CHURN. TIO. FULL REFUND. WHY IS INTERNET SO EXPENSIVE IN AUSTRALIA?

    God forbid we ever get Google Fibre, they'd be raging to the TIO around the clock because they can "only" get 700Mbps from their gigabit service.

      So you would be happy at 1% of your bandwidth and all downloading, streaming, steam completely blocked or extremely throttled for to 2 months plus?
      The other issue was a single notification several hours after the cut basically saying you will have to live with this level of service?

      To rub salt into the wound there is ample bandwidth available but TPG were to tight to purchase a usable for Internode customer.

      Last edited 17/03/16 11:05 am

        Not saying they're unjustified *in this particular case*, but Whirlpoolians aren't exactly known for being accommodating or patient.

    I'd love Tasmania to secede, those leeches get more GST money than any state and they have a crappy economy, we'd be better off without the bludgers.

    with telstra here and to be honest ive not noticed any difference with my speed so far.. yay me

      Must be some kind of dark magic, Telstra never like to be the odd one out.

    iiNet 25/5 NBN fibre to the premises at home.

    9 mins to download one song from iTunes yesterday. Normally it would be a few seconds.

    I know Tassie is considered to be in a time warp but that's dial-up speeds.

    #include slow-vakia joke

    Maybe putting all the eggs into one basket was not such a good idea.

    Every international cable has enough redundancy to cover outages. The recent outage of the cable near Perth was easily worked around by routing traffic via fibre to another cable, meanwhile Tasmania has no such luxury. I suspect that the various telcom companies might be seriously considering a second link over to Adelaide or possibly Sydney rather than relying on the single run to Melbourne

    Everyone seems to either blame TPG being stingy and Telstra price gouging. Anyone ever thought about how long your DSL or NBN take to get delivered if you don't already have it. Do you think even if Telstra were not price gouging or TPG willing to pay that maybe they could not get it delivered on time. What would be Telstra's motivation to delivered earlier than there standard timeframe if they would benefit from TPG customer churn?

    Clickbait much with that headline? Anyone NOT with iiNet, TPG, etc is well and truly connected. On Telstra NBN here in Tassie and never noticed any difference. Still blazing along at 95+Mbps. Those complaining about no internet should be complaining to their tight-ass ISP for not buying capacity from Telstra at the beginning. Once they finally did the other day, they discovered that what they purchased only met a fraction of the demand. lol. Looks like iiNet/TPG struggle at load demand forecasting!

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