The head of the NBN has blamed gamers for a significant increase in data consumption on its fixed wireless network and said the company was considering throttling back data consumption of “extreme users” during peak periods.
Bill Morrow, the chief executive of the National Broadband Network, appeared before a Senate committee on Monday to answer questions about the rollout of the NBN in rural and regional areas.
He was asked about his plans to deal with significant spikes in data usage on the NBN’s “fixed wireless” network in recent months, particularly during peak times.
The NBN’s fixed wireless network is used to connect some rural and remote areas to the NBN by transmitting data via radio signals from transmission towers spread out across the country.
NBN Co was considering introducing a policy of “fair use” for fixed wireless, Morrow said, so heavy users could be throttled back to the same usage as everyone else during busy periods.
“In the fixed wireless there’s a large proportion [of users] that are using terabytes of data … during the contended period,” he said.
“One of the things we’re evaluating [is] a form of fair use policy to say we will groom these extreme users.”
“Grooming” refers to the deliberate manipulation of network traffic during the busy period of the day.
Stephen Jones, the shadow minister for regional communications, asked Morrow to explain what an “extreme user” was and what type of activity they were engaged in.
Morrow replied: “It’s gamers predominantly, on fixed wireless.”
He said gamers require high bandwidth because they typically use high-definition video streaming, and that means they occupy capacity during peak periods.
Jones said he didn’t want to fixate on the issue of gaming because gamers were no less legitimate than other data users.
“I’m so concerned that we do not characterise these people as ‘gamers’, which [would mean it] is a less legitimate use than somebody who’s trying to run a home-based business,” he said.
“[I’m] keen to get some hard information about what the profile of these users [is], if the NBN Co is making significant decisions about cancelling 100 megabits per second services and diverting scarce capital, and around infrastructure upgrades.”
Morrow said NBN Co did not have the data to run such analysis, leaving Jones to ask why he had mentioned gamers.
“With great respect to everything you’ve said over the last 15 minutes, you’ve been saying to us the problem here is gamers,” Jones said.
Morrow objected: “I never said that. Hold on. I never said that. I said there are super users out there consuming terabytes of data and the question is, ‘should we actually groom those down?’. It’s a consideration, so don’t put words in my mouth.”