Oh Good, Another Shithouse NBN Co Idea

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The National Broadband Network (NBN) has been undergoing a wholesale price review for the past two months, long enough for NBN Co to horrify the public with some disastrous ideas, like putting net neutrality up for debate. Unsurprisingly, NBN Co has other pearlers on how to "improve" Australia's world-class service.

ITNews's Ry Crozier, who has been killing it with the NBN reporting all year, is reporting that NBN Co has asked resellers about the possibility of making existing 100/40Mbps NBN plans available only for businesses, with residential users shifted to a new 110/20Mbps tier.

NBN has been looking at ways to increase take-up of the 100/40 plans. One solution that's been floated is to offer a 100/20 plan, with half the upload of the 100/40 product but for a lower cost. (At the time, this would have just been a supplementary plan, with 100/40 still available to any user who wanted it.)

NBN Co's argument in the review, as quoted by iTnews, is that users don't tend to take advantage of the 40Mbps upload speed. "To provision a service of these dimensions adds costs from a wholesale and retail point of view," Ken Walliss, general manager of commercial at NBN Co, said.

That makes sense. But there are plenty of users - gamers, streamers, people who work from home offices and content creators generally - for whom that 40Mbps upload is an absolute necessity. For one, most users don't get the full 40Mbps upload anyway: it's limited to the quality of connection and type of NBN you're connected to, with most people getting 35Mbps or less.

To their credit and the relief of every gamer down under, Aussie Broadband introduced some sanity into the debate. The ISP reportedly told the price review that "we believe there is still a reasonable segment of the residential market that want the 40Mbps upstream speed, particularly given the popularity of cloud applications for storing photos and videos."

Kotaku Australia reached out to NBN Co and Aussie Broadband for confirmation and comment, but NBN Co did not reply by the time of publication. Aussie Broadband confirmed that NBN Co put forward the questions to resellers, as well as their response to NBN Co, and provided a separate statement over email saying the 100/40 plans were "absolutely essential" for users.

With regard to the higher speed tiers more generally, we believe these speeds are absolutely essential given the bandwidth needs of some customers currently, let alone the bandwidth requirements of Australian consumers more generally over the coming years. We would actually like to see nbn develop additional discount bundles for the 150/100 and 250/100 speed tiers, as we believe there is a market for these speeds if the price was reduced.

The Aussie Broadband representative added that "we think it's unlikely" that the 100/40 tiers will be pulled from service, partially because the consumers that need that extra upload have no alternative. "We think it’s more likely nbn will introduced a discounted 110/20 bundle for residential customers and leave the current 100/40 bundle in place for RSPs to decide which customers are best suited to it," an Aussie Broadband representative said.

NBN Co, like they did when the "Netflix tax" reporting was at its peak, told iTnews that they hadn't put forward any proposals and that it was up to resellers to "purchase any available NBN offer to construct their retail offerings".

And that is undoubtedly true: NBN Co hasn't told resellers to "do" anything. They're just putting forward suggestions and are not enforcing anything in particular.

But resellers like making a profit, and if you continually lobby them with ideas that you'd expect to see in the hellscape that is the American telco market — like asking companies if the charging of "streaming video could be differentiated" from other data and services — then eventually someone is going to bite.

So instead of making "suggestions" and asking for "feedback" on ideas that will make Australian internet worse — and it's not great to begin with — let's just start treating the internet like a utility, and stop worrying so much about the amount of profit that can be squeezed out of a national asset. That's what resellers are supposed to do, after all.

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