NBN Says They Weren’t Blaming Gamers At All

Following a solid round of criticism over the last 24 hours over comments at a parliamentary hearing in Sydney, NBN Co has issued a statement: NBN chief executive, Bill Morrow, didn’t blame gamers for congestion on the fixed wireless network at all.

Image: Scott Rhodie

The media statement, titled “Fact Check: NBN Co CEO on online gamers and nbn Fixed Wireless network”, challenges the assertion that Mr Morrow blamed gamers at all for fixed wireless congestion. Most of the statement is paraphrased, but I’ll replicate NBN’s statement below for clarity.

The claim that Mr Morrow blamed “gamers predominantly” for the Fixed Wireless congestion is not correct.

Mr Morrow said there were many causes of congestion including higher-than-expected take-up of the fixed wireless service 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.

Mr Morrow was then asked if a Fair Use Policy (FUP) would be introduced on Fixed Wireless.

Mr Morrow said that to prevent the 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”.

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.

More importantly, this point was actually clarified in the hearing.

The Member for Whitlam, Stephen Jones, put it to Mr Morrow directly that he had said gamers were the problem when it came to congestion, and Mr Morrow categorically and emphatically denied that as demonstrated in this extract:

Stephen Jones: With great respect to everything you said over the last 15 minutes, you have been saying to us the problem here is gamers.

Bill Morrow: 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.

Stephen Jones: I am content with that clarification.

So, let’s back up a bit.

The kerfuffle all kicked off from comments made by Morrow earlier in the hearing. The NBN CEO noted that there was a “large proportion [of users] that are using terabytes of data” during busy periods, a remark which NBN doesn’t challenge.

Morrow then told the committee that “while people are gaming it is a high bandwidth requirement that is a steady streaming process”. In his remarks, as reported by the ABC and The Guardian, gamers were identified as a type of “extreme user”.

Morrow was questioned about heavy users, because NBN announced they were looking at implementing a “fair use” policy to handle data load during peak periods. Labor senator Stephen Jones directly asked “what these super users look like”, and according to a transcript from parliamentary reporter Jackson Gothe-Snape, Morrow fingered gamers:

After the public outrage, NBN issued an initial statement to the ABC yesterday afternoon. That statement clarified that heavy data users were not the main cause of congestion on the fixed wireless network, but concurrency – where multiple users are hitting the network at the same time.

“He identified them as an example of a heavy user, which, as he said earlier in the hearing, is not the main cause of congestion … the main cause of congestion is concurrency, in addition to higher-than-expected take-up and consumption [across the user base],” the ABC report says.

During the hearing, the NBN CEO had said that “no-one designs a network to where everybody uses it at the same exact time” and that the volume of heavy users on fixed wireless was substantial enough that limiting their usage during peak periods “would be a substantial lift to people”.

Neither NBN statement clarifies or corrects Morrow’s remarks on gaming as a high bandwidth requirement. NBN’s statement reinforces that gamers “could be affected by a fair use policy” – a softer reframing of what Morrow said to the committee – but that multiple users on the network, streaming video, is the main problem.

In other words, too many people are using the network at the same time. Gamers aren’t responsible for the congestion: it’s everyone.

What do you think?

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