Not absolutely everything is the NBN’s fault

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blog As you might be aware, we’ve seen some bad reporting on the National Broadband Network from time to time (hello Daily Telegraph, we’re looking at you). When it comes to the NBN, journalists, even technically-minded journalists, can often get confused about the technology involved, as the NBN infrastructure is complex and often a little difficult to understand. Take this article published today by Computerworld, for example.

The article purports to highlight three examples of businesses in the early stage NBN rollout zone of Willunga, in South Australia to show readers what life is really like on the NBN. But in each case it gets technical details wrong.

In the first case, Computerworld notes that the Alma Hotel has had a difficult transition to the NBN, with several outages. What’s only clear upon reading further is that in both cases, the outages may not have been the actual fault of NBN Co. Computerworld notes that in one case, “a painter at the hotel damaged the fibre connectors”, while in the second case, the ISP providing VoIP telephony services to the hotel, NuSkope, appears to have had difficulty getting its systems to play with a firmware upgrade to NBN Co’s UNI-V voice port (and it was just that ISP, not others). Not particularly a surprise, when even a much larger ISP, Internode, only recently finished trialling the integration of telephone services with the UNI-V dedicated phone port. This is still experimental stuff; it’s not yet fully bedded down.

In the second case, the primary problem experienced by local business Everyday Marketing Solutions appears to be that the signal from its wireless router didn’t reach all areas of the owner’s home … something that has nothing to do with NBN Co. And in the third case, regarding another web-based marketing business, OzFeathers, the owner noted that the 12Mbps/1Mbps NBN service they were on was much better than their previous ADSL service for uploading files … despite the fact that the 1Mbps upload speed would be technically the same with most modern ADSL2+ services. Amazing new technology! No, not really.

Now, there are substantial parts of Computerworld’s article on this subject which are, in fact, wholly accurate and represent good reporting. And there is no doubt that it is valuable to interview early adopters on the NBN and find out what their experiences have been. But it’s also true that this information needs to be presented in context and with insight into the subject matter. Wi-Fi services not working as planned? Not really an issue for the NBN, per se. Hotel painter accidentally sabotaged the NBN cables? Yeah. Again, not really an issue for the NBN. Great new NBN upload speeds? No, not really amazing if they are the same as ADSL2+. These kinds of details in articles, I have no doubt, drive the good folks at NBN Co mad, when they read them. And who can blame them? Perhaps I’m nitpicking (and let me know in the comments below if you think so), but this stuff just drives me mad when I see it.

58 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately – good news don’t get reported in Mainstream media.

    And when it does, it gets a small reporting, hidden somewhere amongst all bad stuff in small heading – sometimes not matching the content of the article.

  2. As per my question and comment in the Article, the only reason it costs more is because T$ force them to have a copper connection as well – time to change providers.

  3. At this rate the next NBN story will be about some guy who’s NBN connection stopped working for hours every day, and ignoring that it’s because he turned it off.

    • Add something about battery backup and something about the old phone network staying online in power outages or something along those lines, and you’ve got yourself a page 8 article for The Australian.

  4. Here are some things the NBN will be responsible for, given what I’ve heard and read: No dental care in Medicare. No free tertiary education. Pervasive monitoring of every aspect of our lives. The government spying on everything we do. Internet filters on everything. A lower GDP. No more competition in broadband. No faster Internet until our grandkids’ are old because other people won’t want to roll out infrastructure. No more infrastructure rollouts for everything. Worse roads. Internet will cost $150 a month. Connecting to the Internet will cost customers $7000. It will leave taxpayers $80 billion poorer. It will leave taxpayers $100 billion poorer. It will leave taxpayers $200 billion poorer. Kids will be blinded from looking into the fibre. It’s a government plot to destroy the News Limited monopoly (as if that’s a bad thing). Since it’s rolled out, DSL has become slower. Since it’s rolled out, Wi-Fi has become slower. We’ll be left with an outdated network once the FTTH is completed. It will allow the Chinese to spy on us. Smart meters will control our lives. It will move us to the top of the league tables of broadband, but that matters if it’s actually good to be on top. The wireless signals from the NBN will kill people.

    I could go on. And all of these are, I swear to god, things I’ve read or watched or heard, and I can supply sources. Apparently everything is NBN Co’s fault.

    • “It will leave taxpayers $200 billion poorer. Kids will be blinded from looking into the fibre.”
      lol really? That’s awesome.

        • You asked for sources? Well, here they are anyway:

          > what frequency fibre are they using at residential infrastructures and is the system using L.E.D or L.A.S.E.R optics? Just for your knowledge one cut along the back bone fibre and all communications are lost completely, and what about children looking into a fibre that may have some how been dug up at a home, they will be permanently blinded and lose sight in which ever eye looks at the laser light. Not safe, not logical and not needed, this is completely about technology, anyone knows in this day and age new technologies are around the corner, and in fact since the signing of this project wireless speeds has more than doubled and are currently in use by me typing this comment, so it is you who needs to get a grip of the future, the NBN will be OLD technology before it is complete.

          http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/article/2012/10/13/367611_news.html and click on ‘More Comments’. Posted by, I wish I was kidding, “engineer of australia”.

          > Yet I’m coming to think it will cost at least 200 billion dollars and it turns out Brisbane has a private broadband network underway which will come in years ahead of the NBN, possibly rendering it redundant.

          http://pcpowerplay.com.au/forums/showthread.php/178099-Is-the-National-Broadband-Network-a-White-Elephant

          • I know you’re not kidding.

            I’ve had engineers swear to me black and blue about things; when they’re so far from right its impressive. Granted they werent ‘Network Engineers’ and I should hope it they arent spitting anything that isnt true.

          • Speaking as “an engineer”, I’d just like to point out that’s about as relevant as quoting a dentist when talking about brain surgery…

            Although I’m a mechanical engineer, and I know enough to cringe when reading stuff like that. I wouldn’t pretend to tell an electronics engineer how to design a network, though.
            Then there’s also the fact that some of the people I went to uni with really had no clue, and barely scraped through on conceded passes.
            It’s like that old joke says: “Q: What do you call the guy who came last in his class at medical school? A: Doctor”

          • “wireless speeds has more than doubled and are currently in use by me typing this comment,”

            In 2006, dial-up was still the most common type of internet connection in Australia. Maybe quink, as you suggest, we should have simply stayed with that noisy, dirty technology as I’m confident that you could still have typed your comment.

            True, wireless technology is the largest and fastest growing service but have you ever tried to connect to a 3G network when the mining shift finishes or at major outdoor concert or at 18:00 in just about any large suburban community? As for 4G, there is already congestion on both networks but posting comments should still be ok ;)

          • > Maybe quink, as you suggest, we should have simply stayed with that noisy, dirty technology as I’m confident that you could still have typed your comment.

            You do realise I was quoting what someone else said, right?

      • I forgot about that one… “The NBN is slower because it’s easier to go over my quota.” or something like that.

        • You also forgot the one that said the NBN was trying to fry her brain with a wireless tower.

          Of yeah, and the “journalist” that said NBNCo turned her house from a “genius” to a “moron” because her plan got shaped from excessive downloads!!

  5. err, well, if the NBN gives you the choice of better run ISPs, or if your copper loop is (gasp) not quite capable of running a 1Mb/sec uplink, you could actually find that you got better throughput for a 1Mb/sec uplink than on your old ADSL2 service. But the article doesn’t even say that their old copper was capable of running ADSL2, just ADSL.

    Even if it was ADSL2, a lot depends on the installation; not sure how well ADSL2 devices adapt down to crappy lines, as I’ve never had the luck to live where I can get ADSL of any ilk, but I helped a neighbour debug his Bigpond 256/64 ADSL connection after the telephone support drone got him to ping some Bigpond servers and declared that a packet loss rate of 20%-50% meant the connection was working, because “packets were getting through”. A few replugs of all RJ and phone connectors were enough to get a decent S/N ratio and essentially no packet loss. Pity he had to wait until someone happened by who was prepared to do some basic troubleshooting.

  6. Is it possible that the NBN poses a threat to certain cable TV providers who happen to be owned by particular media conglomerates? Would this possibly provide an incentive for biased coverage?

    • Are you implying that the biggest old media company in the world, having a 70% market share in domestic newspapers and running the only pay TV provider has some sort of reason to see a cheap, open and pervasive media high-capacity, even multi-casting, delivery system that enables genuine competition dead?

      NO WAY! GET OUT OF HERE! IT CAN’T BE TRUE!

    • Would that be the same media company that includes newspapers that have vowed to bring down the current government, no matter what?

      Hmm, do you think that might affect their editorial policy, and their “balance” of reporting?

  7. I think you’re stretching with the final part, about the uploads.

    “Technically” they are the same upload speed.

    But in reality, ADSL based upload speed often fails to reach the ‘technical’ high. Unlike NBN which is relatively stable and fixed at the high rate.

    • True — but for the purposes OzFeathers is using their broadband connection for, the article is still stretching it a bit. Uploading large files to the Internet? How large can these files have been, if the previous quota limit was 5GB?

      • Many ISPs don’t charge for uploads. I used to uploads heaps on my 512/512 kbps connection c.2003 and still had plenty for downloads. So quota wouldn’t affect that.

      • I get free uploads on Exetel…I could upload a Terabyte if I wanted.

        Pity my upload speed on ADSL2 struggles to reach 0.2MBps. And worse when it rains.

  8. “And in the third case, regarding another web-based marketing business, OzFeathers, the owner noted that the 12Mbps/1Mbps NBN service they were on was much better than their previous ADSL service for uploading files … despite the fact that the 1Mbps upload speed would be technically the same with most modern ADSL2+ services. Amazing new technology! No, not really.”

    Whoa, hold your horses there for a second!

    Fromt he sounds of it, the new NBN plan gives her reliability and quota… she makes no mention about upload speed. Importantly it gives her *confidence* – I’d guess she knows she can rely on the upload and if she meets speed restrictions upgrading is a piece of cake.

    But hey, you’re just a journalist – no reading required.

    • Quota … again, not an issue to do with the NBN, and while reliability is an issue on ADSL, it’s hardly the sort of thing which would stop you uploading videos to YouTube …

      • Renai, not sure if you’re just trolling, but up until quite recently speed bands were still a very common option for ADSL.

        So a direct comparison of picking the slowest possible NBN based speed, could be against the equivalent ADSL option. Which would be something like non-Annex M ADSL2 services.

        Otherwise, you are stating that despite a consumer choosing a pinto, they’re going to compare it with a pinto, and being outraged the pinto isn’t as fast/ good/ etc.

        I really don’t see that’s a sensible line to take?

        • compare a pinto, with a ferrari, even.

          comparing two pinto’s is a bit like comparing ADSL2+ with FttN..

      • “Quota … again, not an issue to do with the NBN”

        Semi-correct, but the issue here is your reading comprehension.

        ” while reliability is an issue on ADSL, it’s hardly the sort of thing which would stop you uploading videos to YouTube …”

        Says who? From the sounds of it the users experiance disagrees with you.

  9. “Great new NBN upload speeds? No, not really amazing if they are the same as ADSL2+.”

    This always causes me to chuckle. NBN not faster than ADSL2+!!!!1* zOMG RORT!.

    *author has either never read actual NBN speed options, hasn’t actually used the service and is mouth-breathing the same old tired arguments from the “media”, is quoting theoretical figures for ADSL2+, or negate to mention they’ve purposefully decided on a slower speed, but that that is obviously not their fault for making that choice. Or all of the above.

    Too. Funny.

    • Brendan,

      do you have any evidence to put to rebut my claim that many ADSL2+ services offer 1Mbps upload speeds in Australia today, which is directly comparable on a speed basis to the 1Mbps upload speed offered under the NBN’s lower plan?

      Sure, there are other reliability issues with copper ADSL, but the speed point still stands.

      Kind regards,

      Renai

      • I get your point Renai, but there can be a whole lot of different in “ADSL2+” performance depending on where you are and the condition of your copper lines.

        I have no reason to believe that the business didn’t get faster speeds with a new fibre system (even a “slow” one like 12/1) compared to her “old” ADSL2+, but put that down to her old system either dropping a lot of packets due to line quality issues, or that she may have been a good distance from the local exchange.

        Some ISP’s don’t really care that the “ADSL2+” they sell you can actually runs at slower speeds than “ADSL” gets…

      • Renai, your point is based on a specific instance where the ADSL service meets or exceeds the same parameters as the chosen NBN based plan. Something that is not automatically true in all cases.

        And it’s patently false the moment you step above the bottom NBN service teir. I take exception to the original authors point that one speed teir choice dictates the NBN is slower. It isn’t. Their choice might be, but that’s their choice.

        That’s a big brush you’re using to paint with. :)

  10. Absolutely sick of seeing stories from this ‘News Website’ pop up on Whirlpool. Are you sure you are not actually getting paid by the NBN?

    Internode launches NBN phone services
    23 November, 2012 11:06
    “Internode carried out trials of the service around a year ago”

    > when even a much larger ISP, Internode, only recently finished trialling the integration of telephone services with the UNI-V dedicated phone port

    Right, so ‘recently finished’ That was back in 2011 yeah?

  11. You are nitpicking, Renai.

    For example, the problem Everyday Marketing Solutions had getting wireless to work happened because of the NBN. Previously the phone connection went through an extension to where the internet connection was needed. Fibre terminates at the closest place t the street and makes getting the signal to where you want it your problem that you can’t solve with the phone cabling you already have in your premises. It is precisely the problem that a lot of people getting an NBN connection will have. Sure if you’ve got your house cabled with cat5 or -6 its no problem, but how many people who aren’t geeks have got that.

    And the Alma Hotel, contrary to how you put it, weren’t complaining that they had these problems, but that NBN took so long – longer than Telstra ever used to – to fix them, leaving them off the air for days at a time. That is NBNCo’s fault, and if its typical of the quality of service they provide, will be exactly the sort of problem many other NBNCo customers.

    • Gordon
      a) this is a trial site to establish methodologies and issue, so some teething issues were discovered
      b) The fibre terminates close to the street, correct. However with current practice the NTU can be installed in a more convenient location, really not a major issue.
      c) Fault repair time, in this instance it was a remote update that caused the issue, teething issues in a trial site.

      However did you also note the extra costs incurred by Telstra’s enforced bundling to get a decent priced mobile service (essential in rural areas) – all those shiny new 4G contracts and often Telstra is the only mobile provider (Thanks to Government and USO subsidies ).
      Guaranteed to discourage take up for many average users that are medium to heavy mobile users

    • > longer than Telstra ever used to

      You’re comparing a phone network which was built a century ago to a fibre network which is still in the early rollout stages. This is not really a valid comparison. You would be better off comparing NBNCo’s fault resolution time frame to PMG’s as of 1920 (does data even exist for that?).

      FWIW, Telstra took 6 months to fix an issue with my ADSL at my old premises.

  12. Renai

    I don’t know many people who really get 1Mbs upload speeds.

    I’m only getting around 800 Kbs.

    If the pricing is anything like what my dad gets on the NBN, for a few extra $ they could have 25/5 which I think would offer much better value to them.

  13. “Great new NBN upload speeds? No, not really amazing if they are the same as ADSL2+.”

    Sorry, Rennai, ADSL+ can sometimes be dead slow, and I can well imagine some people thinking the NBN faster. I currently have fibre Internet, and speeds are both fast and consistent. This time last year, however, I was on copper, and counted myself lucky to get much better than dial-up. With copper, it all depends on where you live whether you get the advertised speeds, or something equivalent to two tin cans and a piece of string. And then, if you have drawn the short-speed straw, NBN is most certainly going to seem amazing. Promised speeds on copper are politicians’ promises: they exist only to confuse journalists.

  14. Any discussions about the speed of ADSL is subjective.
    You really can’t compare them with set speeds of any other services, unless you yourself have a connection on the exact same piece of copper to compare.

    If OzFeathers say they had bad speeds on ADSL, then they really had bad speeds.
    “despite the fact that the 1Mbps upload speed would be technically the same with most modern ADSL2+ services.”

    Renai, you should know better. “Technical” doesn’t get into it. It’s real world speed that is important.

    If OzFeathers are uploading even just 10 times faster than before, then kudos to them and congratulations to NBNCo for doing what it supposed to do. Making life easier for businesses.
    I can only wish I were in the same boat, instead of been forced to upload content @70Kbs on an ADSL2+ line.

    • Technically, my ADSL2+ connection is 24 Mps. Realistically, its about 1/4 of that. This is where this sort of comparison annoys me personally – every persons ADSL connection is different. I’m within eyesight of the local exchange (1 corner between me and there), and lose 3/4s of my potential, because of poor lines, etc, so saying 12/1 is the same is a furphy.

      It SHOULD be the same, but it isnt, which is why we need an upgraded system in the first place – the existing system is falling apart.

      Throw in being in outback SA (or wherever in SA it is – dont know the state well) and you have added issues bringing the effective ADSL speed down even further. Its very easy to see that even a jump to a consistent 12/1 can be a massive improvement over what they actually had.

      This is where fibre wins every time. Its base speed is as close to what you should be getting that any difference is irrelevant. ADSL, you know is the opposite. They say 24 Mps, you get 6 Mps if you dont live next door.

  15. One day you will post something balanced about the NBN.

    The NBN has about 221 days to finish their work – good luck.

    • “One day you will post something balanced about the NBN.”

      And one day you will be allowed back on Delimiter. You have been banned for a week.

      Cheers,

      Renai

  16. You are (possibly deliberately) missing the point of the article. A ftth rollout requires changes and often upgrades to CPE. An alternate rollout (say fttn) doesn’t. NBNco didnt actively cause these problems but they are caused by a compulsory change in cpe. Fttn in comparison doesn’t require this change, and not actively blocking competition gives businesses redundant options to prevent these problems.

    • “Fttn in comparison doesn’t require this change”

      Um …. I’m not sure that is strictly true.

      “not actively blocking competition gives businesses redundant options to prevent these problems”

      Um … there wasn’t any infrastructure-based competition in Willunga anyway — just copper. So yes, wherever there’s a single network, these same problems will occur.

      • Fttn nodes can run adsl. So it is true. Vdsl would require an upgrade in cpe but is not compulsory (and in other fttn rollouts the upgrade to fttn hasnt been compulsory either). Your correct that it depends in the area when it comes to competition, however as it stands there are (expensive) business options that wouldn’t have the lead time to fix problems that the hotel experienced. In the future all infrastructure will be at the mercy of nbncos fault fixing.

        NBNco for better or worse adds another layer of failure, as shown with the voice outage. Whether it is nbnco or nuskopes fault it wouldn’t have occurred with landline or mobile connections.

  17. My biggest annoyance in the Computerworld article was this:

    ‘Lodge is paying around $20 to $30 more for his NBN plan than his ADSL as Telstra requires him to still have a copper phone line.

    “That’s one thing that I’m a bit disappointed with,” he says. “There are no packages without that. We never used that home phone before because we’ve got mobiles, but we had to have it to get broadband.”’

    1) Telstra is not the only ISP

    2) Telstra’s NBN plans are the same price as the ADSL plans, so he would always have been paying that $30 for the phone line. In fact, the NBN allows him to drop that phone line by switching ISP.

    3) TELSTRA IS NOT THE ONLY ISP

    Since the author didn’t seem to comment re: 1 or 3, the article falsely implies that the NBN adds an extra cost when this is in fact exactly backwards.

  18. And I’m pleased to note that the WP goon squad turned out to “address” Mr. Blake’s concerns…

    http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/2010812

    No, not everything is the NBN’s fault, but when there are clear cases of NBNco or it’s rep’s (eg. the discussion of issues in Armidale where one joker actually suggests that the problems are possibly because it’s a traditional conversative/liberal seat… suggesting what, sabotage??) are at fault. Faults happen, it’s the way of life, it’s how a company reacts to them that counts. Mr Blake wasn’t exactly complimentary at the start of the thread, and was pilloried by the usual suspects for daring to speak out about his experience. Or told to take his concerns elsewhere (the 3 monkies would be proud), or that it was testing etc, or that it would be just as bad/worse under Telstra etc (is that something to be proud of?)

    I’m sure there are also news outlets that say milk has dried up because of the NBN, but seriously, when a real fault exists or there is a fall down in service, why can’t we have that discussion without the loyalists showing up to try and force everyone to be quiet..?

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