by Byron Connolly

ITPA ‘appalled’ by Bill Morrow’s comments on gamers

Jun 07, 2018

Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) said on Thursday that it is “appalled” at attempts by NBN’s outgoing CEO Bill Morrow to lay the blame for congestion and service degradation on its fixed wireless network at the feet of gamers.

The association also rejected the concept of rationing data usage as a solution to the problem.

ITPA president, Robert Hudson said in a statement yesterday that comments made by Morrow during a parliamentary enquiry in Sydney were “misinformed, ill-conceived and bordering on core foundation principles of the internet in terms of neutrality and independence.”

Morrow said that consideration is being given to grooming excessive users, which means throttling them back in times of peak demand to limit the impact on overall user experience. Hudson likened NBN’s hint at potential gamer grooming as a clear breach of consumer rights and a “regression to the sort of uninformed technical discourse not seen since the 1990s.

“NBN is facing a range of technical configuration and congestion issues on its HFC and fixed wireless networks and has found that the easiest way to deflect blame is to demonise a section of the online community that is only using what it paid for,” Hudson said.

“The problems it is experiencing are a lot closer to home. They are under-provisioning backhaul to their fixed wireless hubs that service their customers and that is a planning issue not a usage issue.

“Given the wholesale pricing structure back to RSPs, there is no excuse for them to be under-provisioning bandwidth and wireless node capabilities to fixed wireless hubs.”

Hudson claimed that NBN Co got caught on the hop by unexpected bandwidth usage on the fixed wireless network. Rather than groom the top speed tier of fixed wireless subscribers to level out service quality of all users, they should just be provisioning what users are paying for, he said.

“Effectively, the issue isn’t a technical one or even a complex one – it’s a business one,” Hudson said.

“They bet on the fixed wireless footprint consuming less data than they actually pay for and considering the number of fixed wireless users was vastly increased thanks to the multi-technology mix redesign, that is a shocking miscalculation.

“It is totally outrageous for NBN Co to blame gamers for the problems and worse that they think it is ok to hobble the services consumers have bought in good faith, based on their usage preferences,” he said.

He added that if the NBN starts rationing data to people, irrespective of which data plan they have paid, the issues are even more far-reaching in terms of protecting internet independence.

“This also comes down to the issue of net neutrality,” said Hudson. “If service providers are going to groom certain customers who are using their paid-in data in a certain way, where does it stop?

“The whole concept of net neutrality is that one type of traffic should not be given preference over another. If today, it’s gamers who are throttled, next it might be something more political or commercial in motivation.”

Hudson also claimed that NBN itself even contradicts that gamers are the problem in a blog post: “Where streaming 4K video can use as much as 7 gigabytes (GB) per hour and high-quality audio streaming gets up to around 125 megabytes (MB) per hour (but usually sits at around half that), certain online games use as little as 10MB per hour,” the post says.

NBN Co hit back at ITPA’s comments, saying the claim that Morrow blames “gamers predominantly” for the fixed wireless congestion isn’t correct.

“Mr Morrow said there were many causes of congestion including higher-than-expected take-up of fixed wireless services and increased data consumption, but the main cause is concurrency. This is where multiple users are on the network at the same time, usually streaming video,” NBN said.

During the enquiry, Morrow was asked if a fair use policy would be introduced on fixed wireless. He said that to prevent heavy users from impacting the majority, their usage could potentially be shaped in the busy period and they could download as much as they want at other times.

He was asked who these users were that might be affected and he responded, “it’s gamers predominantly,” NBN said.

“So, Mr Morrow has said that gamers could be affected by a fair use policy, if one was introduced. This is very different to saying that gamers are predominantly responsible for congestion across the fixed wireless network. This is also reinforced by the fact that Mr Morrow had already said that concurrency, not data consumption was the major driver of congestion,” NBN said.

NBN chief Bill Morrow announced in April that he wouldstep down from the position this year. He has overseen the roll out of the national broadband network since joining the company in April 2014.

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