NBN Co to punish high-volume satellite users

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NBN Co to punish high-volume satellite users

Exclusive: Speed throttled to 128Kbps for a fortnight.

NBN Co has ordered all retail service providers on the interim satellite service to enforce a 50GB four-week usage threshold for customers to combat ongoing congestion on the service.

In communications sent to RSPs late last month, sighted by iTnews, NBN Co warned any customer who breaches the 50GB limit during any four-week period will have their speed slowed to 128Kbps for two weeks from when they first exceeded the limit.

The network builder also instructed RSPs to introduce a 9.7GB download limit at any one time across their entire customer base.

NBN Co will start limiting high-volume users this month, it told RSPs. It also said it would apply additional network service limitations if such usage persisted. 

"It’s about a fair go for everybody," an NBN Co spokesperson said in a statement.

"The interim satellite service .. is designed to serve a maximum of 48,000 users only. That’s based on the fact that we’re only able to lease a finite amount of bandwidth from commercial operators.

"Hence the problem we faced: some very heavy users of ISS (about 2-5 percent – some of which consuming hundreds of GB per month) were crowding out the majority."

Less than five percent of interim satellite service users will be impacted by the download limit, NBN Co claimed.

The satellite service has been plagued with complaints of speeds at almost unusable levels since reaching its capacity of 48,000 users in December 2013.

The federal government pledged $18.4 million towards the over-subscribed interim satellite service in April last year, which included a third more capacity and network optimisation efforts.

At the time, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned that NBN Co would introduce a new policy to ensure a “minority of very heavy users cannot crowd out the majority”.

Users warned

As a result, interim satellite service RSPs have now begun informing high-volume customers of changes to their plans.

SkyMesh over the weekend gave its biggest users notice that they would be moved off their plan in a month's time.

Customers who choose not to shift to a new plan or churn to another provider will be migrated to a smaller plan offering 1GB normal data and 11GB bonus data off-peak.

"We realise this is a significantly smaller data allowance than you have now, but the reason we have chosen this plan is that it's lower in cost than your current plan, and it gives you the flexibility to upgrade to a different plan mid-month if you exceed your data allowance and your service is speed limited," SkyMesh told customers.

It said the NBN Co policy now meant the biggest basic plan the RSP could offer had a 20GB normal data allowance.

"We know our plans have been drastically reduced, perhaps even more than you might consider necessary. However, under NBN Co's rules, they genuinely are the largest plans we can offer," SkyMesh wrote.

"We are not able to offer plans with normal data allowances anywhere near 50 GB, even if you ask nicely."

SkyMesh customer Paul Heymans of Paul Computers said NBN Co's decision to throttle big users would penalise businesses like his as well as any rural institution - such as a school or medical service - dependent on the service for internet access.

"We don’t download movies or games – it’s all business usage. We average between 75GB to 90GB per month," he told iTnews.

"We also do a lot of free IT work for the community – for example we made a video recording of the presentations at ‘Meet the Candidates’ events in our two electorates during the Queensland elections and uploaded them to Vimeo. Total of 10 presentations at 1GB each equals 10GB."

Fellow ISS RSP BorderNet also cut back its included data allowances after being told by NBN Co they were far too high.


"If you feel satisfied with the price you are paying for you service at the moment and are confident that your continued usage of the service will not exceed the 50 Gigabyte limit then there is no need to change your plan," it told customers.

"However if you feel that there are times where you may exceed the NBN Co limit then we would encourage you to change your plan."

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