Opinion: iiDallas ruling may fix systemic piracy problem

Surprise ruling on online copyright infringement case may help Aussie consumers with pricing and availability of content in the long run.

In a surprise ruling of handed down by Justice Perram last week, Dallas Buyers Club LLC was denied access to the details of around 5,000 iiNet customers who are alleged to have pirated the movie using peer-to-peer technology — after the judge deemed that some damages that DBC wanted to claim from alleged infringers were “untenable”.

In summary, the judge determined that Dallas Buyers Club could only reclaim the cost of the film if it had been genuinely downloaded plus a proportion of the legal costs.  Perram described other claims sought by DBC as being “untenable”, denying the company from seeking:

  • A claim for an amount based on each person who had accessed the uploaded film from each downloader’s Torrent source; and
  • A claim for punitive damages depending on how many copies of other non-DBC copyrighted works had been downloaded by each infringer

Effectively, the ruling sets a precedent against so-called speculative invoicing in Australia where rights holders hold alleged pirates at ransom by demanding large sums (often in the thousands of dollars) or risk facing legal action.

Ruling will prompt rights holders to “do the right thing”

Unlike in other countries where speculative invoicing can be seen as a large source of income for rights holders, Perram’s ruling last week removes much of the financial benefit for rights holders to pursuit alleged pirates.  Legal action will only enable rights holders to recover costs of a regular sale of the film to infringers — and no more.

In effect, this would encourage rights holders to boost availability and affordability of its own content in Australia rather than risking the expensive and unpredictable process of legal proceedings to reclaim costs later down the road.  (Believe it or not, earning money straight away is probably better than not selling something, then suing something for stealing it, and then not knowing the outcome of those proceedings.)

Ruling “a big win” to Australian consumers in more ways than one

Not only is ransom speculative invoicing effectively “banned” by the ruling, it may in fact reduce piracy in the long run.

Traditionally, the island nation of Australia has always suffered from timely and affordable releases — especially TV shows or movies.  But the age of the Internet has changed everything and Australian consumers are able to jump the hurdles to access content intended for overseas or otherwise, pirated.

In June, I did an analysis on the most pirated movies in that month — and found that 67% of those movies were not available for legal digital purchase.  Just imagine if those movies were available for legal purchase!

Australians have long shown that they are willing to pay for content that is easily accessible and are at an affordable price.  The rapid uptake of paid, subscription services such as Netflix, Presto and Stan is evidence of this.

If rights holders continue their current trend of holding back digital releases in select countries, they may find themselves at a financially risky position of recouping limited sales costs.  They also risk the process backfiring on them, leaving them surplus legal costs and no net revenue gain.

So… perhaps now that legal action is shaping up to be not too attractive, rights holders will finally work together to and resolve complex geography-based licensing restrictions and restrictive DRM models to provide us as consumers “easy ways” to purchase content legitimately and legally.  One can dream.

Government tables changes to allow 3 day delay of regular mail

Legislation tabled to allow regular letter postage timeframes to be delayed by up to 3 days.

The Federal Government has finally tabled an amendment to Australian Postal Corporation (Performance Standards) Regulations 1998, allowing Australia Post to create two tiers of postage – “priority letters” and “regular letters”.

The changes were long sought after by Australia Post whose letters delivery service was raising to over $300 million dollars per year.  Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, confirmed plans to implement the two-tiered postage priority in March this year.  The company had indicated in the past that priority mail costs would start at around $1.50 when the service is first introduced, with the option of increasing prices to $2.00 in the future.

Comparing the standards table in the amendment with the current standards table, all delivery times have been shifted by three days in the proposed regular letters standard compared with current timeframes.  Current delivery timeframes are maintained if customers choose the priority letter tier.

Table showing time-frames for two-tiered postage
Table showing time-frames for two-tiered postage
Table showing current time-frames for regular letters
Table showing current time-frames for regular letters

The company was also seeking to increase regular postage costs from the current 70c to $1.  The proposed changes still needs to be passed by both houses of Parliament.

Telstra ends free Wi-Fi trial, launching Telstra Air

This coming Tuesday, Telstra will end its free nationwide Wi-Fi trial and launch of their new nationwide Wi-Fi offering “Telstra Air”.  The network, which claims to be “Australia’s largest Wi-Fi network”, will allow Telstra broadband customers to use their broadband allowance where there is a Telstra Air hotspot available.

The company has also signed a deal with international Wi-Fi provider Fon to allow Telstra customers to continue using their fixed-line data allowance in overseas destinations including UK, Spain, Brazil, Japan, France and Germany.

Telstra Air will be delivered over three hotspot types:

  • More than 4,000 hotspots located at Telstra payphone sites
  • Over 15 million hotspots overseas, via Fon’s network
  • Secured hotspot over other Telstra Air customers’ home broadband gateway

In order to join Telstra Air, Telstra home broadband customers must be willing to share part of their broadband connection as a Telstra Air hotspot too using a compatible Telstra gateway.  Telstra claims that over “a million home broadband customers already have a Telstra Air-ready gateway”.  These gateways include the Telstra Gateway Max™, T-Gateway®, and the ADSL Premium Gateway.  Once enabled online, activated gateways will also transmit the Telstra Air hotspot signal for use by other Telstra customers.

Telstra has also confirmed that customers who have a slower broadband connection will find that their network performance will be protected: “We know that Wi-Fi speeds are important to our customers so [network settings] are in place to ensure their home network performance is protected. This includes limiting the number of guests per hotspot and switching off hotspot sharing when the line speed into a home drops below a certain level.”

Opinion

This seems pretty cool.  At a local level, imagine rocking up to your friend’s place, and you’re both Telstra broadband customers.  Firstly – you won’t need to ask for the Wi-Fi password.  Secondly, you won’t have to worry about your friend using up all your data allowance, or them hacking into your network.

Also quite awesome is that by enabling Telstra Air, it unlocks the millions of Fon hotspots around the world.  Essentially, Fon’s network works exactly the same as Telstra Air – on a Worldwide scale.  Customers purchase Fon-compatible routers from Fon or a partner carrier, and once connected, can have access to other Fon hotspots worldwide.  That said, the bad news is that the Fon network is now locked out for all non-Telstra broadband customers in Australia.

To be honest though, I’d be really interested to see how the technology (at the gateway level) works behind the scenes.

The whole TUSMA and payphone situation

One final piece of food for thought – Telstra’s payphones are partially funded by a levy paid for by the Telecommunications Industry as part of a contract deal between TUSMA (now part of the Department of Communications) and Telstra.  $44.0 million was paid to Telstra during the 2012-13 financial year for these services.

We know that similar rollouts have been seen worldwide, where telcos take advantage of their existing payphone infrastructure to deliver hotspots.  I know that the TUSMA contract does not directly subsidise the rollout of the hotspots for the payphones – but on the surface, there does look like there may be conflict.  Is it fair on the wider industry who pays the levy, given that Telstra now gains a competitive advantage on them by rolling out Wi-Fi hotspots on infrastructure they partially funded?

Telstra’s network rules rural Australia

Telstra’s 3G/4G outperforms Optus along NSW’s regional railway route.

Regional train trips used to be occupied by staring out into the vast NSW country side and marveling at the single-rail track first built over a century before.  But in this day and age, I try to make good use of the 6 hours I spend on the XPT between Sydney and Taree.  After spending a solid week and plus a train ride with the trusty Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus dongle and my OnePlus One with a Vaya Mobile sim card running on the Optus network last week, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about my experience on both the Telstra and Optus network.

Inside the Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus box: the dongle itself along with some documentation
Inside the Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus box: the dongle itself along with some documentation

The train trip

Perhaps unsurprisingly, both Optus and Telstra have solid 4G coverage in metropolitan Sydney.  In the first half hour as I travelled north through Central, Strathfield, Epping and Hornsby, both networks allowed me to do basic work – access my Google Documents and some development work without issues.  But as the train journeyed past Hornsby, towards the Central Coast – the networks began to differentiate themselves.

Optus’ signal began to drop in and out frequently, while for the most part, the network connection on the Telstra network was relatively stable.  My phone struggled to get reception until we approached built-up areas along the Central Coast and Newcastle stretch, often defaulting to “Emergency Phone Calls Only”.

Meanwhile, on the Telstra network, things continue to run smoothly.  I even received an SMS saying I was passing one of Telstra’s new “4G only areas” where there is data only, and no voice services.

Passing through one of Telstra's new 4G-only areas
Passing through one of Telstra’s new 4G-only areas
Map showing (roughly) parts of TrainLink's North Coast Line (orange).
Map showing (roughly) parts of TrainLink’s North Coast Line (orange).

However, once we passed Maitland and headed north-west towards Dungog, both network started to struggle.  To put some of this into context, for those unfamiliar with the train journey from Sydney to Taree, the train travels inland a fair bit.  It’s no surprise that coverage struggled in some of these areas – not only was there very low population density in some of these areas… but the train tracks were often installed in trenches that were dug out of the rocky and hilly terrain.  For a lot of the journey, we would have been below the line of sight of most towers even if there were any.

However, I was not dismayed – I continued my experiment!  I found that the Telstra dongle managed to pick up the occasional 3G and even 4G signal as we approached nearby towns or passed a tall mountain in the distance with a reception tower… while the Optus phone: well, let’s just say there wasn’t much to report on.  Even as the train was approaching the major settlements of Wingham and Taree, my Optus phone got a bar of “E” at best – just enough to send an SMS.  I suspect the trees and foliage had a major factor in dampening the Optus network signals which has relatively lower transmission signal compared with Telstra’s NextG.

But the pleasant surprise awaited me at the station…

4G in Taree, 4GX in Forster-Tuncurry!

Unlike Optus who still hasn’t upgraded their mobile networks around Taree, Telstra has 4G coverage in the majority of the built-up area around Taree.  Their 4G coverage even extended further east than what their coverage website indicates.  Whereas I’d sometimes struggle to load my emails or even load Google News on my Optus phone in surrounding towns of Taree, I found that I was able to consistently load pages without an issue.  It was really nice to see!

Telstra's coverage map around Taree.  From my experience, 4G coverage extended out to Cundletown (where the pin is)
Telstra’s coverage map around Taree. From my experience, 4G coverage extended out to Cundletown (where the pin is)

The neighbouring towns of Forster and Tuncurry were fortunate enough to have received the 4GX upgrade, and so as you can imagine – a speed test was in order:

Solid speeds of 57/30Mbps over Telstra 4GX in Forster, NSW
Solid speeds of 57/30Mbps over Telstra 4GX in Forster, NSW

Conclusion

Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed with Telstra’s coverage and network speed in and around Taree.  If I still lived there, I would be seriously contemplating a switch from Optus to Telstra’s network right about now.  It’s something I’m going to consider when I finally decide to get a new phone, for the convenience when I’m back home.

While both Optus and Telstra’s network struggled in parts of the train trip from Sydney to Taree, Telstra’s network was clearly in front in terms of coverage.  It had solid coverage between the Central to Newcastle segment, and an admirable effort in the really sparsely populated areas between the settlements of Maitland, Dungog, Gloucester and Wingham.  But where I thought Telstra’s network really shone was the coverage as we approached rural towns.  Approaching Wingham and Taree, Telstra’s network “just worked” while Optus’ required quite a bit of arm flailing even to get “one bar” of 2G signal.

Optus still has a fair bit to catch up in regional Australia – and with no successful bids in the first iteration of the Federal Government’s Regional Blackspots Program, I see that it will be hard for them to catch up with Telstra.

As for Vodafone?  I didn’t get to test them this time around, but I’m definitely planning a future comparison between Telstra and Vodafone for my next train trip.

Also, a review of the Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus dongle is coming soon 🙂



Note: I am part of Telstra’s Influentials Program. The Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus dongle was provided by Telstra, however, it is important to note that Telstra has no control over my editorial content. The experience above is based on my personal experience using the following devices for the respective networks:

  • Telstra 3G/4G/4GX: Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus, using Wi-Fi to my laptop
  • Optus 3G/4G: OnePlus One, tethering from my phone to my laptop

 

NBN Fibre to the Node Trial at Umina Beach

nbn™: criteria for copper remediation revealed

Service may only reach the speed range once within 24 hours

The company building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released details how it proposes to classify premises where “remediation is required”.

In the most recent draft of the Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA 2.2) released Access Seekers for FTTN Business Readiness Testing, nbn revealed that “NBN Co will designate that Remediation is required” where “25 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream for all bandwidth profiles other than 12 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream”.  The company also included an exception clause for the Fibre to the Node network where the speed is limited to 12/1 Mbps during the co-existence “transition” period.

While a premises is being designated for remediation, nbn™ says that speeds may be “significantly less than” the speeds ordered by the customer.

NBN Co outlines how premises that require remediation are classified
NBN Co outlines how premises that require remediation are classified

The company has also revealed for ranging speed tiers such as those used for the Fibre to the Node and Fibre to the Basement products, the performance criteria for the Peak Information Rate (PIR) may only be reached the specified range “once” within a 24 hour period.

NBN Co outlines its speed performance criteria for Peak Information Rate (PIR)
NBN Co outlines its speed performance criteria for Peak Information Rate (PIR)

However, this performance guarantee applies only applies to the network that nbn™ provides to the service providers.  Additional factors such as service contention set by service provider may further degrade services received by the end user.

Inside an NBN node at Umina Beach

nbn™: FTTN limited to 12/1 Mbps during transition

While legacy services such as ADSL2+ exist on the Telstra copper network, speeds will be limited to reduce interference.

Despite what the documentations says, nbn™ has now denied (on the record) that they will “limit” speeds to 12/1.  Please refer to this post here for more information.

In the most recent draft of the Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA 2.2) released Access Seekers for FTTN Business Readiness Testing, nbn has revealed that speeds will be limited to 12/1 Mbps during the so-called “Co-existence Period” on the Fibre to the Node network.

During this period, all bandwidth profiles will be restricted to reduce interference with existing legacy services that run on the Telstra network.  A similar limitation will apply to Fibre to the Basement, however, the maximum speed will be limited to 25/5 Mbps rather than 12/1 Mbps.

Table showing the speed limitations for FTTN/FTTB during Co-existence Period
Table showing the speed limitations for FTTN/FTTB during Co-existence Period

In the document, the company said that the speeds will continue to be limited until “NBN Co is satisfied that Downstream Power Back-off is no longer required”:

11.5 Co-existence Period
NBN Co will disable Downstream Power Back-off in respect of an NBN Co Node when NBN Co is satisfied that Downstream Power Back-off is no longer required in respect of that part of the NBN Co FTTB Network or NBN Co FTTN Network (as the case may be). The Co-existence Period for Ordered Products supplied by means of that NBN Co Node will cease at such time.

FTTN BRT Special Terms – WBA 2.2 Draft – NEBS Product Description

Despite explicit wording of the documentation, however, a spokesperson for nbn™ has denied to technology publication ZDNet that they will limit speeds.  Instead, they have indicated that they will guarantee speeds of at least 12/1 mbps.

During the period when NBN is upgrading a suburb with ADSL to VDSL2 speeds will not be limited to 12/1Mbps. During this so-called ‘co-existence period’ line speeds on the NBN FttN service will still be substantially faster than those being delivered via ADSL2+ from the exchange

For customers who live close to the exchange, the speed attainable over the Fibre to the Node network may actually be lower during the “Co-existence period” than what’s possible over their existing ADSL2+ service.  The typical theoretical maximum speed for ADSL2+ is 24/1 Mbps and is delivered from the Telstra exchange.

ADSL and special services will "co-exist" with FTTN/FTTB during the transitional Co-existence Period
ADSL and special services will “co-exist” with FTTN/FTTB during the transitional Co-existence Period

However, since the duration of the Co-existence period varies depending in the area still using ADSL or special services – customers who experience greater speeds over ADSL2+ (greater than the 12/1 Mbps offered) would still need to migrate to NBN before NBN Co can declare the “Co-existence period” over.

Once the Co-existence Period is over, nbn™ will provide 12/1 Mbps and 25/5 Mbps speed profiles similar to those on Fibre to the Premises with higher speeds only available as an “up-to” range.  However, NBN Co also states in the document that it is considered acceptable if the customer only receives speeds set out in the PIR or PIR range “once” in 24 hours.

Table showing the FTTN/FTTB AVC speed ranges in the draft of WBA 2.2
Table showing the FTTN/FTTB AVC speed ranges in the draft of WBA 2.2

FTTN BRT Special Terms – WBA 2.2 Draft – NEBS Product Description (PDF)

nbn™ logo (large)

The ultimate name style guide for NBN Co Ltd

Thought you understood the terminology behind the National Broadband Network?  Bets are that you probably don’t even know what to call the name of the company.

Today, we look at the names that the company building the National Broadband Network uses and how confusing it can get:

Name What it means?
NBN Co Limited The actual (registered) company name for the company building the National Broadband Network
nbn The trading name of NBN Co Limited. Refers to the company
(nbn must be in bold!)
nbn An occasionally acceptable way to refer to the company, NBN Co Limited.
(nbn must be in bold, ™ is not in bold)
nbn™ Refers to the products and services of nbn, and not the company.
NBN Refers to the network that the company is building: the National Broadband Network
nbn co ltd Another name that refers to the company NBN Co Limited that’s usually used in footers. Generally inconsistent usage
NBN Co Used to refer to the company NBN Co Limited before the rebranding.

nbn spent $700,000 to rebrand their company late April, in a hope to “streamline” the brand.  But in truth, it has probably caused more confusion than anything.  Hopefully, this guide has helped clear up some of the ambiguities of calling the company.

But if in doubt, just continue to use NBN Co.  No one really cares.

FAQ

Help! I only have pen and paper… how do I write nbn in bold?

Just continue to using “NBN Co”.  No one really cares.

Help! I don’t have a rich text editor… how do I write nbn in bold?

Just continue to using “NBN Co”.  No one really cares.

Publisher’s note: This, in no way, constitutes the view of nbn, nbn™, nbn co ltd, NBN Co or NBN Co Limited (or however you want to write it). If you haven’t realised by now, I find this naming convention absolutely crazy and unnecessarily confusing.

With the “level of confuse” I have right now, I probably got something wrong up in that table.  Please let me know if I do 🙂

NBN Fixed Wireless Antenna (close up)

Update: nbn™ 3.5GHz LTE test sites

As reported earlier on jxeeno blog, nbn™ has begun testing the use of the 3.5GHz spectrum for Fixed Wireless in outer metropolitan areas.

The ACMA has updated the list of NBN Fixed Wireless towers where 3.5GHz transmitter and receivers have been installed:

Tower Location State ACMA site ID
51 Jupp St PROSERPINE Queensland 9017726
10 Morang Crescent MITCHELL PARK Victoria 9015336

Earlier, ZDNet reported that the antenna design for the 3.5GHz network will be similar to a “baseball mit”:

“that the antennas installed on top of the premises as part of the trial were designed similar to a “baseball mitt” in that although the 3.5GHz beam is relatively narrow, the capture of it on the antenna was wide to ensure that line to sight between the NBN Co tower and the premises’ antenna was maintained.”

However, the Department of Defense had raised concerns that utilising the 3.5GHz spectrum may interfere with radar capabilities.

While the actual assigned spectrum is 3.56GHz, the assignments were issued under nbn™’s existing 3.4GHz license which it acquired from the now defunct Austar satellite TV company. A full list of ACMA assignments can be found here.

The end of an era: FTTP rollout comes to an end

Multi-Technology Mix replaces the full Fibre to the Premises rollout

It’s been known for some time that the Fibre to the Premises rollout will come to a head. As expected after the introduction of the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) rollout strategy as directed by the Government’s Statement of Expectations to nbn™, the FTTP rollout era is expected to end next month in June. According to the 18 month rollout plan released to service providers in March, there will be no more FSAMs (Fibre Serving Area Modules) expected to commence build beyond June 2015 encompassing a “pure” Fibre to the Premises rollout.

The past two months (March and April) saw a consecutive lows of 4 FSAMs entering into build preparation phase. The 19,900 lucky premises over the past two months are one of the final groups of communities to get the full FTTP rollout. Provided that nbn™ doesn’t remove them from the map again, these areas are expected to commence build within the next 2 months.

One final rollout region, somewhere in the Wollongong Fixed-Line Serving Area, is expected to be the final FSAM to enter into the build preparation phase this month and appear on the rollout map in June. From there on in, it is expected that nbn™ will transition to the MTM, dropping the word “Fibre” from “Fibre Serving Area Module”, releasing Service Area Modules (SAMs) that will encompass multiple technologies in a single module.

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nbn™ proposes satellite fees: rural customers lose out again

nbn™ has clarified some of the contents of the original post. The post has been updated in light of this new information.

As part of nbn™’s industry consultation on the Long Term Satellite Service launching next year, the company released a list of proposed charges for the satellite service to Access Seekers (service providers) for feedback last Friday. A summary table was released to the public this morning.

The table lists a number of new proposed charges, including a reactivation fee, installation, installer travel costs and a range of late or missed appointment fees.

Proposed incidentals charges for NBN Long Term Satellite
Table 2: showing some proposed charges for the NBN Long Term Satellite

Under the proposed charges, the company will charge the customer through the internet service provider an installation fee based on the distance the installer has to travel (charged at $1.40/km) and also pay an hourly rate for the time they spent driving and installing the equipment (at $98/hour). This is in contrast with nbn™’s current cost structure for the Fixed Wireless and Fixed-Line products where the installation is free for the customer.

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