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Docklands’ digital dream turns to dust

31 Aug 2009

Docklands’ digital dream turns to dust Image

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands’ fibre optic futuristic digital dream has faded away.

Four years ago VicUrban announced iPORT,  a fibre-optic-based network and predicted a future of high speed internet, video on demand, lower phone costs and even free calls within a Docklands “digital village”.

The reality has failed to match this rhetoric and in July this year residential subscribers who were still using the fibre network for telephony and internet access were disconnected.

In this newspaper in 2005 VicUrban was claiming joint ownership of iPORT, with predictions that new residential telco Arise would “provide a range of exciting services which truly capture our vision for a digitally integrated smart city”.

The Arise website speaks of Docklands as a “digital village” and claims to operate under VicUrban sanction.

VicUrban’s own Docklands website iPORT page says: “High-speed internet connections, provided at an affordable rate, allow people within the Docklands ‘Digital Village’ to make calls and exchange data free of charge.  iPort is currently available for Docklands residents and businesses located in Conder, Village Docklands, Watergate and Victoria Point.”

Today the fibre optic cabling is not being used while residents make do with satellite and copper-based phone lines for pay TV and internet access.

One building manager the DCN spoke with said residents were reluctant to take on Arise for internet services because it was too expensive.  He said the fibre network had become a “white elephant”.

VicUrban says the fact that the fibre has already been laid in Docklands positioned the precinct ahead of the national fibre optic roll out recently announced by the Federal Government.

VicUrban insists there is no issue with the iPORT  high speed fibre-based infrastructure in Docklands and says it is aware of an issue with only one private retailer’s delivery of service to one building.    

VicUrban says that Docklands residents can choose to have fibre optic-delivered services by contacting a relevant provider but the DCN believes that no retail residential service providers are using the Docklands iPORT network.

VicUrban said if residents were having difficulty finding out what service providers serviced their building, they should ask their building manager to check the building’s communications room, to determine which retail providers were connected into the building.

Industry sources said residential fibre optic services had become less viable as other less expensive technologies such as 3G-delivered broadband had entered the market.

It is understaood that iPORT is being used commercially in Docklands and currently carries video signal from Etihad Stadium.

Ownership of the iPORT network has changed hands three times in four years.  Originally announced as a joint venture between VicUrban and PowerCor, Powercor later merged to become Silk Telecom in early 2006.  And last year, Silk was acquired by NextGen Networks.

In its termination letter to subscribers in July, Arise said it no longer had access to the physical iPORT network.

Conder owners corporation chair Sally Hewitt said MAB Corporation had unintentionally misrepresented the extent of services available through iPORT to apartment purchasers.  “Their failure has been in not following through,” she said.

She said the fibre optic cabling within Conder had been installed at great expense but the cabling had never been used.

Conder apartment owner and barrister Tony O’Donoghue said:  “We were told that we were getting a high-speed communications system with internet, Foxtel, movies and all sorts of exciting things.”

“We were told that it would be many times faster than anyone in this country had ever experienced.  And yet we have never had an opportunity to use that service.”

“It’s unacceptable and farcical and it calls the competence of VicUrban into question for not being able to facilitate a solution,” Mr O’Donoghue said.

Conder resident Warren Mills said he had been forced to use ADSL internet access through the standard copper telephone lines as high-speed internet had never been available.

Arise would not speak to the Docklands Community News.

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  • Terry Crews at 6:19am on 04/09/09

    I would be more than happy to supply a high speed wireless service to Docklands if there is sufficient interest. I am a resident of Yarra Edge and have noticed the difficulty of getting good high speed access. Docklands could be made a priority in our national rollout and could be operational in less than a month with true speeds up to 54Mbs over most of the area.
  • Shane Scanlan at 9:16pm on 06/09/09

    This is an interesting comment Terry and seems to support the view that the fibre optic network has been overtaken by newer technology.
  • Terry Crews at 4:35am on 07/09/09

    We are experiencing a major change in the way we communicate and do business. In my 45 years in the industry I have never seen such rapid change. Disruptive technology will change the landscape forever.

    Bring on the revolution!

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