NBN Says They Weren't Blaming Gamers At All

Image: Scott Rhodie

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.

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?


Comments

    Backpedaling furiously. Uselessly. We know what he said. It was quite clear.

      Argue the semantics and you automatically bog down the conversation, directing rightful scorn away from the true issues.

    So yes, he blamed gaming as hogging bandwidth.

    He also blamed high concurrency, which is an oversubscription problem.

    This PR defence had to use all of their wigglyness to smooth things over, but it's not enough. Either way the network infrastructure is lacking.

    Can we get someone challenging this two-faced piece of shit on his idiotic/untruthful (take your pick) claims about the lack of demand, now?

      Additionally, this one's mind-bogglingly stupid:
      "...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..."

      No network other than, y'know, the electricity network for example. You don't design for average fucking use over 24hrs, YOU DESIGN FOR PEAK. This is like the hare-brained, technologically-illiterate assumptions that went into the capacity for the census site. As if the entire fucking nation hadn't been conditioned for generations to do the census 'on census night'. ie: roughly 20M+ people at pretty close to the same fucking time.

        Not defending him. his comments are laughable for a number of reasons, but on this one, he has a point. Without going into a long post, nobody builds for peak usage. Its a wasted expense. Doesn't make it right, but that's reality.

        Data isn't continuous, it goes in packets. Which have gaps between them for plenty of people to use the same lines at the same time. They provide enough to deal with what we use for most of the day, but to supply enough for the 4 hours we're all gaming and watching Netflix becomes expensive.

        Its that surge cost they need to address. To use the electricity network, they have surge pricing, so they can access electricity when the peak usage happens. If NBN had that, this wouldn't be an issue. Instead, ISP's need to pay for 24/7 access to something that isn't needed 20 out of 24 hours a day.

        Most networks aren't built for peak capacity. Some have ways to handle peak loads, but in general they operate to something more like 80% capacity. Its why electricity has surge pricing, roads have peak hour, and so on.

          The electricity comparison doesn't service your point, since the real element of comparison is the transmission network, not generation. Surge pricing is a generation factor. Our transmission network is gold-plated thanks to nonsense energy policies, built for drastically higher capacity than it ever actually sees. It needs to cater for unexpected peak demand because it's dangerous if it fails to do so.

          The road network does work for your point, but outlines exactly what the real problem here is - NBN grossly (and I would argue negligently) underestimated capacity requirements and built a network with such a limited capacity that it can't even handle current demand on an incomplete network with below-target takeup, let alone the future demand it was supposed to be built for. This is like building a highway from Sydney to Melbourne and deciding to make it one lane only because "well, there'll probably only be like 10 cars a day on it".

            This is true but I'd also add that both sides of government, federal and state (especially here in Victoria) constantly throw money at road projects to try and lower those congestion issues. So saying they build knowing peak will exist is only partly true, they know it will likely always be there but they still try to avoid it.

              A lot of road development in Sydney at least is playing catch up at this point. Capacity was exceeded decades ago and everything since is just trying to catch up to target capacity, not even worrying about building for future excess capacity yet.

              Then you have excellent plans like the Bradfield plan in the 1920s for Sydney's rail network that beautifully catered for future growth, but then successive governments only ever partially implemented it and scrapped the rest.

              Australian roads are a bad example of capacity planning, basically.

                So, to return to the original premise... you design for peak, and implement what's politically favourable. :)

            Thought this would get some comments :)

            Lets put it another way. NBN gives the ISP a free allotment, they buy capacity on top of that. I believe they get given around 150 Mbps, and generally they buy around 50 Mbps more capacity. Could have changed, but the original process was around that.

            It wouldn't take too much more above that, but it gets expensive (and that gets passed on to us). Therein lies the problem. The NBN can give the capacity, but a) they make it expensive so b) the ISP doesn't buy it. A good part of that is on the ISP and their economics, but its also around $11/Mbps, so NBN has blame as well.

            Two solutions. Either make it cheaper, or let ISP's buy the capacity they need to deal with those surges - that's the comparison to electricity surge pricing. Just being cheaper wont cut it, as the capacity they'd need to add is roughly double what they'd be buying now.

            So let them add to what they buy for a 4 or 6 hour block, and charge they just for that period. You know, like surge pricing does. At 1/4 the time, charge 1/4 the cost, which ends up being not that much more to us, and theres extra capacity to deal with all the extra packets flying about.

            Alternatively, a 100 Mbps connection isn't actually based around 100 Mbps. Its 140, because theres the upload portion as well, which isn't used nearly as much as people think.

            Could tinkering with that 5:2 ratio solve things? Like how Sydney Harbour Bridge has (had?) a lane that's inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon, could being able to switch to a 120/20 or 70/70 split help?

            My original point was that Morrow had a point. You don't design networks around 100% usage, you design around 80%, and figure ways to let that 20% happen. Roads build more roads, or change lane directions, while electricity supplies more power only when its needed. NBN hasn't managed it yet, but something like either of those are possible.

            The rest of my post was around ways the NBN and ISP's can manage that.

            I'm not in favour of the current situation, but when you look at how the wholesale access is set up, its not surprising. There are solutions, if someone in power has the balls to set them up. Right now that's Morrow or Turnbull, so if either wants to blame gamers, they need to present solutions they're willing to implement, because gamer needs aren't going anywhere. Neither is Netflix.

            But don't read too much into the analogies. They're never perfect :)

              Part of the problem is that for political reasons, NBNco is treating fixed wireless connections essentially the same as top of the line fibre to the home connections. The ISP is charged the same for equivalent speed tiers, so will offer the same NBN plans to their wirelss and fibre customers.

              Without changing that, you can't really put price pressure on just the customers served by fixed wireless.

              Of course, this ignores the question of why they're using wireless in regions that have enough users to cause this sort of congestion ...

          When people talk about peak capacity of the electricity network, they aren't talking about the theoretical power needed to supply every house on the grid up to the maximum load their breakers will allow. Rather they just mean the local maxima observed in actual use. Surge pricing during peaks is due to the need to bring more electricity generators online that are less economically efficient than the base load generators, but quick to start and stop.

          Applying this to the NBN, this would indeed refer to the "4 hours of everyone watching Netflix" rather than "everyone downloading at 100 MB/s at the same time". Due to underbuilding the fixed wireless network, they end up with congestion when the peaks are higher than they originally projected. In electricity terms this is roughly equivalent to brownouts, which most customers won't tolerate.

            Exactly. Well put.

            If the electricity network was run the way NBN wants to run, everyone would be limited to how much electricity they can use during peak hour, basically. Because what's happening now is the internet equivalent of electricity grid brown-outs. We know what 'typical peak usage' is, it isn't being met, and people aren't getting the service they require for use.

            This was something I intended to mention in my own reply above, but forgot to include by the end of it. Thanks for drawing attention to it.

          If our department's network repeatedly couldn't handle peak processing load for the service delivery folks, we'd all be shit-canned in short order.

          Yes, it gets slightly slower around 8-9am, but if the delays ever get to the point that the people processing the work are noticing it impact their ability to process the work (much like NBN customers might notice slow internet impact their ability to watch a video stream/stay connected to an online game server), it's a priority one incident and it becomes EVERYONE'S highest priority until it's resolved, and you put it on your annual calendar. And if a strategy isn't implemented to keep it from ever happening again, asses get fucking kicked slash fired and replaced.

          You absolutely design around peak when that's your core business. Does it mean that there ends up being wasted capacity, off-peak? Absolutely. Is the wasted capacity worth the productivity loss? Well... I guess when it only impacts customers who you don't respect and/or give a shit about because fuck you, got mine, what're you gonna do? I guess we have our answer.

            It's blame shifting, at the end of the day. When your network has capacity problems you can do one of two things: build more capacity; or limit how much people can use. The latter is basically shifting blame for your network design to the user, and that shit doesn't fly in most any business I've ever worked with, yet somehow it's accepted as reasonable when it comes to government.

              It also doesnt help that blame shifting is and has been the de facto solution to these issues for YEARS now... when given the choice between limiting bandwidth or fixing/upgrading an exchange Telstra almost always chose limiting to squeeze more money.

              Its the ultimate irony here that the whole point of the initial conception of the NBN was to remove this problem and fix our issues by going the later of upgrading.... and here we are after the "upgrade" opting to limit services *AGAIN* because it was half arsed

          Not defending him. his comments are laughable for a number of reasons, but on this one, he has a point. Without going into a long post, nobody builds for peak usage. Its a wasted expense. Doesn't make it right, but that's reality.

          Yes, but the whole point is that the NBN was supposed to 'future-proof' our Internet connections, something that would last decades, which should factor in Australia's population growth, increase in internet usage and the overall growth of data demand.

          You may not plan for 'peak' but you should damn well be able to plan for 'regular usage.' What 'peak' might mean these days is census night, a new series hitting Netflix and so on. This is just standard usage that is causing problems and is disgusting that it's happening at all.

            The NBN itself has the capacity, its the ISP's not buying it. Why are people so quick to lump all the blame on NBN, and none on the ISP?

            I dont want to go into another long post that people will pick apart, but most of the NBN is more future proof than people want to admit. Its claimed even FttN can be upgraded to FttC, and hence FttP in a 2 step process.

            I hadn't heard that until I just went looking by the way (and will believe it when I see it), but if true, that means FttN works for decades. Unfortunately.

            NBN is stronger than people think, even with the MTM crap we ended up with. Far too much hatred gets lumped onto them, and not the ISP's for penny pinching. And yes, I know there are exceptions. There are always going to be specific examples, no matter what they built.

            For numbers though, on a 100/40 line, ISP's get about 200 Mbps bandwidth to deal with the 32 houses on a cluster. That's enough for 85-90% of the day, so how much should they get?

            To guarantee your connection to everyone on the cluster, they'd need to supply 4500 Mbps bandwidth, to be split 32 ways. That's peak usage, and I'm not sure many understand that. Even half that number is massive overkill because of how data works. Hell, 10% is.

            At that amount, any problems you'd have with too much data at once would be resolved so fast you wouldn't notice. And theres why I think Morrow has a point. You don't plan on 4500 Mbps of bandwidth when 6-8% is enough that the end user wouldn't notice.

            Getting from 4.5% to 6% is surprisingly expensive though, and we're the ones that end up paying for it. My argument here is that they need a way to supply that just for the busy period, to cut the cost down to us as users.

          Even if he had a point (which he doesn't), this was nothing more than scapegoating, so Bill Morrow deserves all the scorn he gets.

          He originally blamed slow speeds on gamers - but as their own website points out, this is nothing compared to streaming video. https://www.nbnco.com.au/blog/entertainment/how-much-data-does-gaming-use-through-popular-examples.html . Of course, he subsequently got called out on the fact that this was wrong, and also that he didn't even have the stats/usage figures to back this claim up. In other words, he was using gamers as a scapegoat - hoping it would get reported by media lacking anyone with technical knowledge to fact check it. And reportedly this happened on several radio stations. So he succeeded.

          He's now changed it to "super users" - which are more likely to be the family who has no gamers but a few TVs where everyone is watching a different show. In other words, he's lying through his teeth and his own website shows that.

          He's now backpedalling because he's been called out, trying to change history and "reframe" what he said - in other words, lying through deception.

          He's also now blaming people for using the network as the reason for its slowness, even though NBN Co was told at length during planning phases of this ill-conceived rollout that the network as designed would struggle to meet current capacity, let alone future capacity.

          Let's also not forget this is the same man who claimed people wouldn't use high speed connections even if they were offered them.

          Agreeing to his premise that "oh, that's not what i said" when there's a transcript that demonstrates this press release is trying to put spin on a blatant lie and scapegoating attempt legitimizes his argument.

          No. He doesn't get that. He doesn't deserve it.

            Yeah, that's got nothing to do with what I said. Not sure how you managed to see it that way when its repeatedly been said that I'm talking about building for peak usage.

            See my reply to mic right above. To build to peak usage is ridiculous when 8-10% of that number will be enough capacity we wouldn't notice the brief periods we need more.

            So why the hell would you incur the expense of more capacity? That's terrible planning.

            I've also consistently pointed out that a lot of the blame needs to fall onto the ISP's for not providing even that amount that's needed. The NBN can deliver it, its just expensive. That's not capacity, that's economics.

              Yes, it does. You just missed the point.

              It matters because now the discussion turns into "what he said about the network not being designed to cope with everyone using it at once is reasonable" compared to "Bill Morrow tries to scapegoat gamers because their network can't cope with current usage, even though he previously said they're not using high speeds offered to them".

              By even buying into his premise, you're changing the discussion, and justifying what Bill Morrow said even though it was a complete lie.

              The NBN isn't coping with demand, so Bill Morrow tried to scapegoat gamers as the cause because they're still seen as an easy target. The NBN isn't even approaching full capacity of peak usage of everyone in Australia at the same time and it is still failing to deliver the promised speeds.

              The electricity/road argument is miscast because if we're using that as the benchmark, the NBN isn't even coping with 11am usage, let alone peak hour. You can claim that we don't need to build capacity for peak usage by all Australians as much as you want, but we're not even close to that point yet and the NBN is already failing to deliver on its promises.

                I'm not going to go over this again, you're still not understanding what I said. Read my other comments. And please dont extrapolate what I said into something I didnt.

                Little tip. If someone cant get their speed at any time of the day, its NBN's fault. If its only peak hour, its the ISP. Most are only peak hour.

                Dont bother responding.

                  Yeah, nah.

                  I read your other comments. You're still wrong.

        They designed it for rural and long range internet usage, where it was designed for a specific type of customers that don't have access to ADSL or Fibre due to extreme distances...
        and then sold it to the open market to anyone who wanted it. They oversold capacity cause people who were one suburb outside the NBN rollout regions (it was also popular for mobile workers and mining boom too) decided this was a good option to take up. It was designed for a specific user base that never got a chance to buy it cause it was sold out.

        I did a short TAFE course in Networking, and guess whatl You DO design networks where everybody uses it at the same exact time! Why the hell would you design a network elsewise?

      That's a good point actually...on one hand they were complaining that users weren't taking up the NBN but now they are saying too many users are taking up the NBN. Huh?

        Yeah it's the same old story really, they want our money but they don't want to deliver on their end.

      As much as I would like to given how good I am at objectivity (to the point of obsession in some cases), I'll have to decline.

      It would be bad for my image to objectively dismantle someone with mental impairments.

        You wouldnt want to get off the fence would you wisehacker. As we all knew you dont design a major public infrastructure project that costs untold billions with a five year lifespan. It will not be fit for purpose by the supposed end of rollout in 2020. If we had got fibre the whole way we would have practically future proofed ourselves. So stupid and politically wicked. unfortunately amongst all the Liberals crimes of which their are many this will be the one that just may sink them one day.

        I don't know if a lack of conscience and a willingness to tell any lie possible to justify stalling progress for a fat fucking paycheck counts as a 'mental impairment.'

          Sorry, I was just being cheeky. No easy feat when the current state is already taking the piss out of itself.

          And not in a good way.

      This part is where I wished he whole Dual-Citizen thing never happened.
      Scott Ludlam, formally of the Greens, played a very good bulldog role in keeping this skidmark on target and reasonably honest. I miss him.

    We didn't say that! What we said was we built a white elephant that is not fit for task! I mean... shit... Aren't Labor terrible?!

    Because gamers...Bill thought it was 20 years ago where gamers are an easy target/scapegoat to blame, that won't have any backlash. He ballsed it up and now is getting is marketing people to make media statements to deflect. Everyone sees through his bs though.

      Seems to be pretty much the case.

      I'm actually kind of surprised he even retracted. There's still a lot of ignorant and dismissive comments about gaming going around even now (pointing to any ACA story on games, for example, that stuff still sticks and gets produced), where its defenders still tend to be brushed off.

      The whole ""no-one designs a network to where everybody uses it at the same exact time..." statement is pretty incredible too.

    So basically it goes to the fact they designed a crap network, didn't imagine that Aussie internet users would jump on the higher speeds/more data available via the network and are now search around for a scapegoat to blame for their network design? Yeah typical company bs.

    Just redesign the damn thing, get it funded and get it done. Do some bloody nation building instead of pandering to opinion polls and backroom party crap

    Seriously, send this back peddling Luddite packing in his horse drawn cart so he can retire to sonething more suited to his experience, like hand churning butter in his barn.

    If gamers are going to be predominantly affected by the bandwidth being shaped, that's the same as saying they are the ones using the majority of the bandwidth. All they are doing is rewording their statement to try and make it sound softer without actually changing the content in the hope that the media won't pick up on that.

    Also, "no-one designs a network to where everybody uses it at the same exact time". Seriously? How can he be so oblivious as to how heavily the internet is integrated into modern society?!

    "It's gamers predominantly on fixed wireless"

    That certainly sounds like he's blaming gamers to me.

    It's almost as if they should have built a network to meet future demands that can be upgraded.

      I would've settled for a network that can meet current demands.

        Hey, only 5% of wireless users are getting less than 6mbps down!

        Welcome to the future!

        I would've settled for a network that can meet 2008's demands.

      Remember that the original NBN plan would also have been using LTE fixed wireless for these customers: it's really just the more urban areas that would have received fibre that were screwed by the coalition changes.

      I guess the real question is why it wasn't cost effective to roll out a physical connection to some areas where it had been economical to roll out a copper phone network.

    Head of the National Broadband Network seriously said "no-one designs a network to where everybody uses it at the same exact time"
    ...
    They've barely rolled out to something like 50-60% of the country and he's complaining about "higher-than-expected take-up". Why even bother?

    NBN Tactics 101: Backpedal as hard as you can

      Nbn is launching a renewable energy program, powered entirely by morrow.

    Gamers on fixed wireless.

    So what... like 5% of Australian's gamers?

    Old people need to stop being in charge of our technology industry. This is beyond a joke.

      FW and gaming suuuuucks. 40ms ping is ok. Anything above that the lag starts to get real.

    so basically there are too many people using the NBN to do internet things?

    lol... I guess we should just go back to smoke signals and passing around floppy disks or something.

    Lol, you know who's affected by the NBN SATELLITE Fair Use Policy? Basically everyone, because you're limited to 150GB of peak data over a 4 week rolling period (and 300GB in a measly 6-hour off-peak window). Not a month, a 4 week rolling period. You've got to steadily ration your usage otherwise your speed is shaped to something which basically makes crucial internet-powered services like remote schooling impossible to use. Because of course by NBN logic this users should be punished for NBN Co's failure to understand and work to meet demand.

      Lol, you know who's affected by the NBN SATELLITE Fair Use Policy?

      It's fair use, don't constantly go against it and you will be fine. Nobody is getting flagged for this.

      ...something which basically makes crucial internet-powered services like remote schooling impossible to use.

      Wrong, kids using remote learning etc. get their own connection with its own data plan.

        You do understand they're considering a fair use policy for NBN Wireless, which is why I pointed out how shit the NBN Satellite fair use policy is for end users, right?

    Ladies and gentlemen, NBN Co CEO Bill "Australian's-wouldn't-use-high-speed-internet-if-it-was-free" Morrow....

      That's right! I forgot the dumb ass said that! Hell yes we would.

    Im on an alternative wireless network and get constant 50mbs down and 20mbs up. It's cheaper than nbn too. Sadly it's not available in all areas but look into alternatives just in case they're available.

    I wish the NBN Co had a CEO who knew what the internet was.

    Not enough people are using the NBN, because too many people are using the NBN.

    We had no idea that a lot of people would use the internet at the same time. What do they all work 9 to 5 or something and use it when they get home?

    After the ridiculousness of the online Census, are we really surprised that the people in charge of this have no idea what they're doing?

    It was a brazen deception the first time around so why not double down and deny it later. Magical.

      It's worked for Trump so far.

        Don't know about it working for Trump.

        But certain authors are richer now for it.

        X-P

    "...Mr Morrow had already said that concurrency, not data consumption was the major driver of congestion."

    yep, concurrency...of data consumption.

    FUN FACT: it took more data bandwidth to load this page and then load the video than it would take the same amount of time playing a game online. This has been proven multiple times in the past. For the layman who doesn't understand what happens when a game is being played 'online' (I'm looking at you Bill Morrow...) the game is rendered on the client end from a minimal amount of placement or node data that is essentially a point in space where the player occupies, all of the 'heavy lifting' is done on the client side and requires very little bandwidth. if you want to point a finger somewhere point it at streaming video services that push the whole movie from server to client let look at it this way, a standard tv episode complied and compressed is still 900mb to 4,5Gb depending on the the quality, the average length of a tv show is 40 ish minutes without commercial, thats 40 minutes of game time so you are looking at roughly 10mb to under massive events with lots of stuff happening and multiple people in the same instance lets say 20mb, thats a lot less than 900mb to 4.5gb thats why massive multiplayer online games can have 10's of thousands of clients connected to a server and that server humming along with little to no problems for years on end, BECAUSE THEY USE VERY LITTLE RESOURCES AND BANDWIDTH. Get your story straight and do your damn research, oh sorry I forgot who i was talking to you are the NBN Co after all,

    NBN minions spindoctoring to cover for their ignorant boss. What else would we expect to see...

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