NBN Co clamps down on satellite usage

Enforces fair use policy for satellite customers

NBN Co's Wolumla ground station. Image credit: NBN Co.

NBN Co's Wolumla ground station. Image credit: NBN Co.

NBN Co has moved to enforce its fair use policy for customers on the Interim Satellite Service.

A briefing document for retail service providers dated 30 January indicates that starting in December NBN Co moved to have RSPs that sold ISS access to restrict individual customers' usage to "no more than 50GB download per 4 week rolling aggregate of usage, measured weekly (the Threshold download limit) so as to facilitate RSP compliance with the ISS Fair Use Policy."

"If RSPs continue to not comply with the Fair Use Policy, then NBN Co will exercise its rights under the WBA [Wholesale Broadband Agreement] by limiting identified services (users exceeding Threshold download limit) from February 2015 if this becomes necessary," the document states.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced early last year that NBN Co would boost the capacity of the ISS to cope with demand. Turnbull said that NBN Co would also implement "a new, stringent fair use policy to ensure a minority of very heavy users cannot crowd out the majority."

NBN Co also announced it would launch a subsidy scheme to enable a 9000-strong list of users waiting for ISS services to instead access commercial satellite services.

The January briefing document states that "NBN Co expects that less than 5% of ISS users will likely be impacted by the application of a download limit."

Paul Heymans of IT services provider Pauls Computers in Somerset, Queensland, said that his ISP, SkyMesh, had notified him that it was no longer offering its highest-quota ISS plans because of NBN Co's move to enforce the policy.

"The introduction of these new restrictions penalises agricultural businesses and businesses servicing the rural sector such as my own and will have an adverse impact on schools, medical services or any institution dependant on NBN satellite broadband services for their Internet," Heymans said in an email to Computerworld Australia.

"We don’t download movies or games – it’s all business usage. We average between 75 to 90GB per month, mostly during the day-time when parents are at work and kids at school so there is no way our usage impacts service quality for other NBN satellite users."

"I'm a customer with SkyMesh – their plans are designed to balance the load with peak/off-peak data," Heymans said.

"Off-peak is from 11:00pm at night to 1:00 pm in the afternoon. The real culprits are the 'anytime usage' plans offered by the likes of iiNet and Activ8me. Most business users will be using the Internet during the daytime when parents are at work and kids at school, so our usage will not have any significant impact on the quality of service for other users no matter how much Malcom Turnbull may try to demonise us as a 'small percentage of high users'."

FAQs for RSP Call Centre Staff

Q: Why has my service has not improved?

A: In the last 6 months NBN Co has optimised the wholesale network under its control. Many End Users will have noticed enhanced user experience. RSPs need to rebalance their peak load demand under the Fair User Policy rules to ensure improved network user experience for the majority of end users.

Q: Is NBN Co forcing my RSP to limit plans to less than 50GB?

A: To ensure everyone using the NBN Interim Satellite Service has the potential to receive an improved experience, NBN Co is taking steps to enforce a 50GB Threshold download limit on AVCs which are not complying with the Fair Use Policy.

Q: Why is NBN Co undertaking this action now?

A: The ISS is planned to be in service until late 2016. As such, NBN Co has a responsibility to manage network performance so it can deliver access with an acceptable end user experience until customers transition to the future NBN Co LTSS.

Q: Why can’t NBN Co just buy more satellite capacity?

A: NBN Co has recently added capacity to the Interim Satellite Service to ensure it is capable of delivering an improved end user experience. However, as Satellite Capacity is very expensive and NBN Co is already heavily subsidising these services it is reasonable for a 50GB limit to apply.

Source: Service Provider Information regarding application of the ISS Fair Use Policy Rules, NBN Co.

NBN Co expects commercial availability of its Long Term Satellite Service (LTSS) to begin next year, with the first satellite launching later this year.

The company announced this morning that construction work on its 10 satellite ground stations had been completed.

"With no access to any other form of commercial broadband service, some rural and regional Australians are still using dial-up Internet – the NBN is designed to provide access to minimum download speeds which could be up to 100 times faster than what they are experiencing now," NBN Co's satellite architect, Julia Dickinson, said in a statement.

"Not only are those in remote areas physically removed from some essential services such as access to education and health specialists, a slow Internet connection can further disadvantage them from the benefits enjoyed by their inner-city cousins.

"The NBN satellite service will play a critical role in helping Australians to be on a level playing field as everyone in the bush will have access to speeds that are as good as if not better than what many people in the city have today. No matter where you live, no home, school or business will be left behind."

To mark the occasion, NBN Co has launched a 'Shoot for the Stars' competition for school students. The competition gives students aged five to 12 the opportunity to decorate the nose cones of the rocket that will launch the first LTSS satellite. The winning student's school will be able to name the satellite.

NBN Co has satellite ground stations in Bourke, Wolumla and Broken Hill in NSW; Carnarvon, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Waroona in Western Australia; Roma in Queensland; Geeveston in Tasmania; and Ceduna in South Australia.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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