NBN Co looks to enforce 'fair use' for fixed-line users

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NBN Co looks to enforce 'fair use' for fixed-line users

Exclusive: Will clearly define what you can do to get booted off the network.

NBN Co will soon more clearly define what is “inappropriate or excessive” use on its fixed-line network - and what actions can be taken in response - almost a year after one ‘extreme’ user racked up 34TB of downloads in a matter of days.

The now-infamous 34TB downloader set up a script to download the same test file over and over, and was ultimately cut off by their retail service provider (RSP), Aussie Broadband under fair use.

While NBN Co has had fair use policies for several years, the wording of them keeps changing and they have been largely unenforced, except for satellite users.

But in recent times, the company has started enforcing fair use on the fixed wireless network, and it now appears enforcement could soon move to the fixed-line network as well - or, at least, much tighter rules be drawn up that makes it clearer when a line is or isn’t crossed.

The 34TB user, for example, would likely be in breach of WBA3’s fair use policy [pdf] for unauthorised “stress testing or volume testing” of their connection. 

It’s less clear in the November 2020 version of the policy [pdf], however, which says usage must pass a ‘reasonableness’ test for what a single household on a mass-market broadband service could be expected to consume.

The same fair use policy also gives NBN Co the ultimate discretion to call out usage as “inappropriate and excessive”, but never actually defines what "inappropriate and excessive" use actually means.

That will soon change, with a consultation to be opened that will seek to establish an industry-wide understanding and consensus defining “inappropriate or excessive” use on the fixed-line network, and the potential remedies that can be implemented where such excessive usage occurs.

The plan was revealed briefly at the end of last month in NBN Co’s latest product roadmap, though it appears to have been mislabelled as an existing activity with a changed timeline for delivery, instead of what it is: an entirely new activity and consultation.

The consultation is filed under the “resilience” section of the product roadmap, and iTnews understands that the intention is to put in place definitions so that the most extreme users of the network can’t negatively impact the service of others.

The plan would impact the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB), fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) and hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) portions of the network.

More clearly-defined rules will help RSPs set ground rules and expectations for customers as to what is and isn’t fair use of their own retailed services.

However, for users, it could lead to a different era of consumption on the NBN, one where some RSPs enforce fair use with a heavier hand than others.

Heavy internet users have the most to fear, since clear rules on fair use could see them booted off the NBN, or at least driven to more expensive business plans, either on- or off-net.

The consultation, once released, will run through to the end of September.

The move comes as NBN Co starts upgrading more of its network to full-fibre, which will mean a larger proportion of users will be less unconstrained in their internet usage.

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