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Finder to the Node: Should NBN Co pay speed penalties?


Rebates proposed to quickly fix NBN issues in our round-up of the week's NBN news.

Are rebates appropriate for fixing NBN problems?

With the national broadband network taking the role of communications infrastructure for the nation, there's understandable frustration with service outages. The ACCC is in the process of examining NBN service standards with the prospect of rebates for customers whose service falls below an accepted standard.

NBN Co accepts in its submission to the ACCC that rebates may be appropriate, and it's pushing to ensure that customers entitled to rebates should see some form of that rebate, even though NBN Co itself would be providing the rebate to its RSP partners.

"Any rebate benefit provided by nbn to reflect the diminution in the value of nbn's service to the RSP should ultimately result in RSPs providing a benefit to end users (either directly, or through other forms of compensation, e.g. provision of interim services while the service is unavailable), rather than simply being a value transfer from nbn to RSPs," says NBN Co in its submission.

On Fixed Wireless NBN? Not so fast with the rebate talk!

However, that same idea doesn't apply if you're on a fixed wireless NBN service, according to NBN Co's definition of what that service actually is.

As reported by ITNews, NBN Co argues that there's no implicit guarantee for a service level for fixed wireless customers.

"Due to the characteristics of the fixed wireless network, it is not possible to be definitive about the maximum attainable fixed wireless network speed at a given location, except at a specific point in time, which does not provide guidance about likely ongoing experience," says NBN Co in its submission.

NBN Co's contention is that the speed guidance it provides isn't a declared information service, and as such any rebate considerations shouldn't be applied to consumers on fixed wireless NBN services.

Telstra and Vodafone don't like fixed NBN rebates

It's not just NBN Co that has issues with the proposal of NBN rebates.

Both Telstra and Vodafone aren't fans of the idea of fixed rate rebates, arguing in their proposals that a one-off payment to consumers may not take in the complexity of actually fixing an NBN service problem, as reported by ZDNet.

Telstra's contention is that there needs to be a time element in any talk of rebates.

"This lack of a time element in the rebates does not appropriately allocate risk and responsibility between NBN Co and RSPs, nor does it incentivise NBN Co to connect a service or rectify a service fault in a timely manner," argued Telstra in its submission.

Vodafone, for its part, argues that there should be a daily rate rather than a fixed sum rate.

"The rebate is a crude financial instrument that has been designed to drive NBN Co's adherence to SLAs and the rebate amount is not representative of the costs incurred by RSPs in managing these cases. The RSP meanwhile is also bearing the cost of providing the customer with a back-up connection, which in VHA's case is a connection to our 4G mobile network via a SIM in the modem," says Vodafone in its submission.

Is the NBN faster than a truck?

Staying with fixed wireless NBN, there's a decades-old problem put to computer science graduates (and some maths students as well) relating to the data speed of a truck laden with data tapes.

It's a theoretical exercise, or at least it's intended to be, but one frustrated NBN fixed wireless consumer put it into practical use recently.

As the Northern Daily Leader reports, Tamworth IT consultant Paul Adnett got so frustrated with the low upload speeds on his plan that he took to the road – literally – to deliver a two gigabtye file via USB to his client.

"I tried to upload a two gigabyte file three times last week. It should have taken an hour but it was taking 12, and then dropping out before it was even complete. I had to get the data to a Gold Coast client's online server by the weekend and couldn't do it remotely, so cut my losses, put it on a USB disc and drove it myself," Mr Adnett said.

With a bit of back-of-envelope calculation, assuming it took Mr Adnett around 7 hours to get to the Gold Coast from Tamworth, that's a data rate of just 4.75MB per minute, or around 0.079MB/s. That's just for the journey to deliver the data, so you could make the argument that it's actually half that rate, as he would have to drive back afterwards. Any way you calculate it, it's not fast.

NBN wants young STEMpreneurs

NBN Co has launched its annual STEM (Science, Technology Engineering & Mathematics) program with a focus this year on what it's calling STEMpreneurs. Under the scheme, 8 schools across the nation will engage in a virtual learning exercise over 12 weeks.

NBN Co's supplied figures suggest that STEM jobs have a bright future, with growth in the sector said to be 10% greater than other employment areas.

"Digital infrastructure is becoming more critical to both learning and career opportunities for Australians. Access to fast broadband is driving growth in Australian entrepreneurship and is forecast to create 31,000 jobs by 2021, including 19,000 in regional Australia," said Kathrine Dyer, Chief Network Deployment Officer at NBN Co.

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Finder to the Node is a weekly round-up of all the latest news surrounding Australia's complex National Broadband Network.

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