Service providers may be eligible for a rebate to upgrade existing users to higher speed tiers
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, will introduce a three-month credit scheme designed to promote the uptake of higher speed tiers on its network. The “Step Up AVC Credit” will see service providers refunded up to $33 over 3 months for upgrading existing customers to a higher speed tier.
End users must stay on the new tier for a minimum of 90 days to be eligible for the credit.
Rebates range from $9 to $33 over 3 months:
12/1 Mbps to 25/5 Mbps: $9 over 3 months
12/1 Mbps to 50/20 Mbps: $21 over 3 months
12/1 Mbps to 100/40 Mbps: $33 over 3 months
25/5 Mbps to 50/20 Mbps: $21 over 3 months
25/5 Mbps to 100/40 Mbps: $33 over 3 months
50/20 Mbps to 100/40 Mbps: $21 over 3 months
In an effort to reduce congestion and lower CVC congestion, the credit has strict guidelines about the state of congestion within the network. Any connectivity virtual circuit connected to end users applying for the “Step Up AVC Credit” cannot exceed an average of 95% of network utilisation for 4 consecutive 15 minute intervals in any 24 hour period.
During this campaign, nbn will also co-fund marketing activities associated with the “Step Up AVC Credit” at $1.50 for each eligible AVC.
The scheme will start in November 2016 and finish at the end of March 2017.
But will lock you in for 12 months if the existing copper line isn’t up to scratch
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, will begin offering line remediation to business services unable to reach their committed speeds over the copper network.
Business level services delivered over Traffic Class 2 (TC-2) have a committed information rate (CIR) which effectively guarantees a connection’s transfer rate. Typical residential services are provisioned over Traffic Class 4, which has a peak information rate (PIR) describing the “up to” transfer rate achievable over the line.
The company is already offering TC-2 services over its FTTN and FTTB network with symmetrical transfer speeds of 5, 10 or 20 Mbps. However, according to the current Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA), the company is currently not committing to its Committed Information Rate — stating:
“the actual Information Rate experienced by Customer, Downstream Customer or the relevant End User, may each be significantly less than the downstream CIR and upstream CIR of the bandwidth profile ordered by Customer in respect of the relevant Ordered Product”
According to the revised WBA on its website, the company will enable customers to submit a trouble ticket to remediate the copper line. However, nbn will also require the end user to take up the service for at least 12 months or will have to pay an early disconnection or modification fee.
Increased FTTN performance objectives
nbn is also increasing its network availability operational target on the FTTN Network from 99.70% to 99.80%. The agreement states that “operational targets are non-binding and aspirational”.
The new wholesale broadband agreement will become effective in early December 2016.
It’s crunch time. With just over a week left until English Paper 1 kicks off, it’s more important than ever to optimise your study pattern.
If you ever find yourself short on time studying and want to re-enforce the fundamentals, HSCninja can help you prioritise your study. The Question Matrix can give you an “at a glance” view of the number of marks allocated to each HSC syllabus topic in the past few years. From this, you can prioritise your study based on what the Board of Studies has examined in the past.
Based on this matrix, we can see that the Board has placed heavy emphasis on the first topic: 9.3.1 – Motors and magnetic forces. An average of 9.9 marks has allocated to this syllabus topic for the past 7 years. The least emphasis is placed on 9.3.5 – AC motors with an average on 3.3 marks over the past 7 years.
However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t study for AC motors! You can see that the Board is still very likely to examine you on the topic, it just affects fewer marks. So it’s all just a balancing act.
A good strategy may be to place a suitable amount of time revising teach topic based on how many marks each topic has historically been worth. But at the end of the day, the more familiar you are with material across all topics — the more likely you are to get higher marks.
Company does away with CVC, but will charge two pricing levels based on metro or regional classification
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released an interim agreement for its Cell Site Access Service (CSAS). As previously reported, this product is designed for mobile service providers to connect its cell towers through the National Broadband Network fibre network.
The agreement includes a price list, indicating nbn’s intention to provide cell towers with blended traffic class product including a traffic class 1 and traffic class 2 access virtual circuit (TC-1/TC-2 AVC). All access products include a 5 Mbps TC-1 AVC, with varying amounts of TC-2 bandwidth from 50 Mbps to 900 Mbps.
Unlike the residential/business focused product offered by nbn (NEBS), the CSAS price list and product specification bares no mention of the contentious connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) — the charge imposed by nbn to allow traffic to be carried over from the NBN to the provider’s network.
For the first time, nbn has offered differential pricing based on the classification of the point of interconnect. Access components in metro and outer metro areas will be charged at a lower rate compared with regional areas.
For example, the base product which includes 5 Mbps TC-1 and 50 Mbps TC-2 comes in at $910 in metro and outer-metro areas. However, the access charge will increase to $1,245 for cell towers connected to regional points of interconnect.
CSAS Network Termination Device
nbn will be providing a specialised network termination device (NTD) for customers of the Cell Site Access Service. Unlike the standard NTD available for residential connections, the CSAS NTD will only have one User Network Interface (UNI) which is accessible through a copper or optical port.
The customer is expected to produce 3 RU of rack space for the installation of the NBN fibre tray, power supply and NTD.
Despite not having to switch modes in my regular commute to work, with the introduction of new Opal fares this week, I thought I’d try to take advantage of the new multi-mode rebate to see if I can shave a few dollars off.
Previously, my work commute involved taking a bus from UNSW Kensington to Town Hall direct (typically, the M50). The distance between these two stops is roughly 5 km — which falls into the 3-8km fare band of $3.50. This single bus trip takes around 30 minutes assuming relatively smooth traffic which is rare nowadays thanks to the light rail construction in the Kensington area.
Instead, I thought I’d break up my trip into a lower fare band bus trip plus a new train trip. Choosing my bus routes carefully, I can see that the 370 bus can take me from UNSW to Green Square station in ~2.6km ($2.10 in fare terms). Changing to a train service from Green Square to Town Hall, I’m charged $2.36 off-peak. Subtract the $2 rebate, and I come out on top: $2.46 one way.
A return trip to work each day would save me $2.08:
UNSW to nr Town Hall Station
New multi-mode route
UNSW to Green Square Station
Green Square to Central
Central to Town Hall Station
Now, the caveats. Firstly, the 370 bus can be quite unreliable. If the bus is on-time, the total journey time is basically the same (± 2 mins) albeit with a bit more walking. However, buses which are 15 minutes late or don’t show up at all are not uncommon.
Secondly, the cheaper fares only apply for off-peak times. In my case, applying peak-time train fares, the journey is only 2c cheaper. That’s probably not worth the extra effort walking through Green Square and Central Stations and potentially missing connections.
So there you have it. Even if you don’t normally switch modes, you might want to explore various multi-mode route options to see if you can save a few bucks or even save a few minutes in your daily commute. You never know what you might find!
Note: For the purpose of this blog post, I’m assuming adult Opal fares even though I’m eligible for concession fares. Fares and any savings would be halved when considering concession fares.
The Opal fare structure is changing starting next Monday (4th September). Here are 4 facts you need to know about the new Opal fare structure:
1. $2 rebate for switching modes
If you have to transfer between different modes of public transport, you’d know you’re being charged a lot more than someone else travelling the same distance on just one mode of transport.
That’s because Opal calculates fares on distance, but doesn’t carry over the distance when switching modes (e.g. switching from a bus to a train).
To solve this, Opal will introduce a “multi-modal” $2 rebate every time you switch between two different modes of transport. For commuters who have half-priced fares (such as child/youth, concession or seniors), this rebate will be $1 to reflect that fares are also half the price.
2. Weekly travel reward, now 50% off
When Opal was first launched in 2012, a travel reward was added to incentivise users to switch. After 8 journeys per week, subsequent trips made on public transport were free (except for the gate fee at Sydney Airport).
Some commuters took advantage of this quirk by accumulating cheap, pointless journeys early in the week to get free trips later in the week. Opal will now block this quirk by making fares half-price after the first 8 journeys, rather than free.
3. $2 rebate won’t work between Light Rail and Ferry
Due to technical limitations, Opal card users won’t receive a $2 rebate when switching from a ferry to a light rail service. It’s not too much of a problem at the moment as it will only affect commuters who switch between the F4 ferry and the L1 light rail service at Pyrmont Bay.
For commuters in Newcastle, the Stockton ferry is considered a bus for fare calculation purposes and so, are unaffected by this technical limitation.
Opal says the issue will be fixed by the time the CBD and South East Light Rail is completed in 2019, when Circular Quay will become a major ferry/train/light rail interchange.
4. Tap off to get the $2 rebate
It’s more important than ever to tap-off correctly. The multi-modal $2 rebate is only applied if you tap-off correctly on your previous trip.
If you forget, not only will you miss out on the rebate — you’ll be charged a full “default fare” AND your journey might not count towards your 8 journeys per week to get half-priced fares.
There’s never been a more exciting time to take day trips to Melbourne.
The $18 tickets
Some months ago, I saw on OzBargain that Tigerair was doing one of its typical promotions — $18 flights from Sydney to Melbourne. Having never been to Melbourne at the time, I pounced and bought a ticket. At that price, I thought, I could afford to write it off if I can’t make it.
Promptly, I selected the two cheapest days: a Sunday departure and Wednesday night return.
A change of plans
Months had passed and I had forgotten about my booking. However, last week, the ever reliable Google Now eagerly reminded me of my “upcoming Melbourne trip”. That’s when I looked at my flight details again and realised I had a problem with my return flight on Wednesday. Unknown to me at the time of booking, this semester, I have classes to attend on Tuesdays.
The solution? I’ll do a day trip and take the Melbourne-Sydney XPT train to return. I had already purchased a NSW TrainLink Discovery Pass which allows unlimited travel on the NSW regional train network but had never done the Melbourne/Sydney run.
A quick tip for people who are planning to redeem only part of your plane ticket: all Australian airlines I’m aware of require you to start your journey with the first flight in your itinerary when you booked. In my case, for example, I could not have taken a train to Melbourne and returned on the Tigerair flight.
Saturday night, I booked the last available seat on a packed Melbourne-Sydney XPT and by 5:40AM the following morning — I was off to the domestic airport on the bus route 400 (the route that basically goes everywhere in the Eastern Suburbs).
Maccas for breakfast
As is customary for typical Uni students, I opted for a quick breakfast at the recently refurbished McDonald’s in the T2 terminal. I got myself a tomato and ham pocket which was far slimmer than advertised and a bacon and egg mcmuffin laced with bonus egg shells. Yum.
As you would expect with budget airlines, the seats are tight. Fortunately, the flight was short and with my slim build the journey was painless enough.
Plus, since I had originally booked the flight with a friend who couldn’t make it, I had a spare seat next to me. That was a nice bonus!
SkyBus to St Kilda
Those who travel to Melbourne frequently would know that the SkyBus is pretty much the only way to get from Tullamarine to the CBD (alternatively, you could get a cab).
Normally priced at $19 one way, the bus trip costs more than flight itself. However, in an unlikely coincidence, SkyBus was launching its St Kilda Express on the same day. For the week, the company will make the bus service free of charge as an introductory promotion.
The bus arrives once every hour during the weekend and takes you directly to St Kilda. However, the timetable probably requires some tweaking. Upon arrival at the first stop in St Kilda (Barkly Street), the bus arrived 10-15 minutes earlier than scheduled.
Since the bus acted both as pick up to the Airport and set down from the Airport, we had to wait for the timetabled departure so we didn’t miss picking up any passengers.
Weekend myki daily cap
myki travel in Zone 1 is capped at an affordable $6 on weekends. While one can say this is not as good as the $2.50 Sundays on Opal, I would have to say that Melbourne definitely has a more convenient public transport system than Sydney.
The convenience of the tram system and no-penalty multi-modal transfers means I don’t have to think twice about switching between trams, trains or buses for that matter.
“Soggy copper heartland”
For those readers who have been following the NBN debate for some time, you may be aware that the copper network in Williamstown, Victoria might not be that great. The “soggy copper” in Williamstown, as our former communications minister Senator Conroy puts it. nbn has recently began construction in the area, so I thought I’d drop by for a look to see if I can spot some nodes.
Disappointingly, there was no NBN nodes in sight despite the area being in build. I did spot some recently remediated Telstra pits though.
This was the first time I’d done Sydney to Melbourne trip. Surprisingly, the train was basically fully booked. As a regular commuter on the North Coast Line, this was an unusual sight — I rarely see a fully booked train.
Every election, the AEC releases what are effectively digitised versions of every single “formal” Senate ballot paper in the election. This year, NSW’s dataset is a 1.06GB CSV file.
Since the Senate voting rules have changed, I thought I’d have a bit of fun and take a look at how well Australians (specifically NSW voters) followed these new rules.
‘Below the line’ vs. ‘Above the line’ voting
First off, let’s look at below the line vs above the line voting. The new rules suggest voters place at least 12 boxes below the line or 6 boxes above the line. I use the word “suggest” because incomplete votes are still “saved” under new savings provisions which came with the changed rules.
Let’s take a look at the NSW breakdown of formal Senate votes:
Below the line*: 185,387
Above the line*: 4,234,502
* For the purpose of this summary, ballots considered ‘below the line’ if they do not contain numbers marked ‘above the line’. Ballots considered ‘above the line’ are the inverse. ** Unspecified ballots are ballots saved by various ‘savings provisions’ and are still considered formal votes. For example, these could include ballots where the voter placed ‘1’ above the line and 2-6 below the line.
Voting below the line
The new voting rules made it easier for voters to vote “below the line”. Not only did voters not have to fill in every single box on the paper, the savings provisions are more generous than ever making more incorrectly filled ballots considered “formal”.
The missing ‘1’: Right off the rank, there is a data anomaly from these generous savings provisions. There were more below the line voters which had placed a ‘2’ in their ballot paper then voters who had placed a ‘1’ below the line. Around 2,054 “below the line” ballots neglected the ‘1’ compared to 608 voters who neglected the ‘2’.
Voting only ‘6’ below the line: Many voters also got confused with the 6 “above the line” or 12 “below the line”. Around 2.5% of NSW below the line ballots were only filled to the number ‘6’, rather than the ’12’ which was prescribed by the AEC^.
Overall compliance: Having said all of that, 96.7% of NSW “below the line” voters followed the instructions correctly and placed a number ’12’ below the line.
Beyond 12 below the line: However, the subsequent drop-off was huge. Only 48,505 ballots had the number ’13’ below the line, compared with 179,196 for the number ’12’.
It was reported that many voters were advised to 12 numbers below the line, and 12 only, which could have played a role in the substantial drop-off. However, it could also be the case that the majority of voters only want to do the “bare minimum” in terms of filling out a ballot.
Only about 26% (48,505) of below the line voters placed a ’13’ below the line. 4,332 ballots (2.34% of below the line ballots) had all 151 boxes filled in.
^ N.B. I am using the number of voters who placed a ‘6’ minus the number of voters who placed a ‘7’ anywhere below the line as a proxy for the total number of votes below the line. Further analysis is required to determine the exact number of voters who placed exactly 6 numbers below the line.
Voting above the line
Only 1 above the line: Despite a vocal campaign from the AEC to make voters aware of the changed Senate voting rules, around 6% of above the line voters continued to simply place a single ‘1’ above the line^. This was the previous above the line voting method.
Beyond 6 above the line: As with the below the line vote, there was a substantial drop off beyond the minimum number of boxes prescribed to be filled. 3,766,149 (3.8 million) voters placed a ‘6’ above the line compared with a mere 224,416 ballots with a ‘7’.
Compliance (BTL vs ATL): Interestingly, above the line voters were not quite as acute in following the AEC instructions with only 89% of above the line voters managing to place a ‘6’ above the line (compared with 96.7% BTL voters complying with the 12 number ‘rule’).
^ N.B. Derived from the number of ballots with a ‘1’ above the line minus the number of ballots with a ‘2’ below the line. This is merely a proxy. Further analysis is required to determine the exact number of voters who placed exactly 1 number above the line. Excludes ballots with both below and above the line numbering (i.e. unspecified)
Here are a few take outs:
Most voters continued to vote above the line
A substantial number of voters continued to only place ‘1’ above the line when voting, meaning their votes were immediately exhausted after their first nominated group or candidate
Most voters are doing the bare minimum when voting for the Senate (i.e. only filling in 6 ATL or 12 BTL).
If I had more time, I’d analyse the exact number of numbers per ballot (rather than the pseudo counting I have going on at the moment). I’d also convert ATL votes into BTL votes, which would then allow preference flow simulations to see exactly which votes ended up making the quota for the 12 NSW Senators we elected. But alas, too much data and too little time on my hands 🙂
STEM back on the agenda, but compulsory English still needs major reform
Today, the Minister for Education announced wide set of changes to the NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) over the next four years. Here are a few thoughts I had on some of the changes:
New syllabus for science courses
Amongst the changes are new course structures and syllabuses for English, Mathematics and Science as well as a renewed focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses.
Having reviewed the draft syllabus writing briefs and consultation reports — science subjects are shifting away from a “social science” focus and instead re-focusing on the fundamentals of science.
For example, the current Chemistry module on Acids and Bases (called The Acidic Environment) has a focus on the history of acids were defined, the uses of esters and acids in society and the impact of things like acid rain to society. In HSC exams, the “big mark” questions are based almost entirely on social impact of science rather than the actual chemistry.
The current syllabus writing brief indicates drops almost all mention of societal impact. It lists four fundamental topic areas for Acids and Bases: Types of acids, pH and pOH, Strength of acids and Volumetric analysis.
I certainly don’t want to see the social science portion eliminated; having students understand applications is extremely useful for students to contextualise their learning and I believe, improves engagement. However, I do think reducing (not eliminating) the social science components will help students prepare for further education beyond the HSC.
The announcement also confirmed that they will be adding an extension course for science subjects. The lack of an extension science course was always a head scratcher for me. There are extension subjects for the two largest arts subjects (English and History), yet none existed for science. This is an exciting and a long awaited development.
Renewed English syllabus
I am, however, disappointed at the lack of major reform in the English courses. The current Advanced and Standard English courses can be characterised more as a philosophy and media course than an English course, and it certainly doesn’t seem like that has changed.
Other than changes in the name of modules, there are no significant changes to the course content.
For English (Advanced), the modules map almost directly from the old to the new syllabus:
Area of Study (Discovery) => Texts and Human Experiences
Representation and Text => Textual Conversations
Critical Study of Texts => Critical Study of Literature
Comparative Study of Texts and Context => The Craft of Writing: Writing Through Time
As the HSC’s only compulsory subject, the subject does not teach or assess English skills independent of history, differing views (or politics) and “human experiences” (all of which are non-English concepts).
There are some who argue that Mathematics is a waste of time, yet we use it every day; whether it’s in the supermarket or balancing our bank accounts. The Board has developed a HSC course which teaches and assesses these essential skills (General Mathematics) and will soon incorporate it into the common part of both streams of Mathematics (see below).
However, general literacy and English skills are not the focus of any of the ATAR-eligible, board-developed HSC English courses. Skills like expressing ideas in various ways like through speeches, reports or essays; or comprehension skills from these works. This is what a compulsory English subject should teach and assess on — at least in part.
The Fundamentals in English course does explore these skills; but studying that subject will make you ATAR ineligible (unless you intend to repeat Year 11 and 12 studying the other English course).
It’s not to say that the current English courses should not exist — it should! But don’t make that part the compulsory subject!
Common scale for General Mathematics and other Mathematics courses
Unlike the Standard and Advanced English courses, students currently studying General Mathematics 2 and other Mathematics courses (2 unit, Extension 1 and Extension 2) are scaled independently of one another. This encourages high achieving students to study the General Mathematics course rather than the more advanced Mathematics courses to score higher marks in the HSC and also potentially a higher ATAR.
The changes announced will see the syllabus of both Mathematics streams share common components and a common paper (much like the Area of Study module in English) to enable students from the two course streams to be reported on a common scale.
I think this is a logical move and also, long awaited. The current Mathematics course lacked focus on some relatively basic Mathematical skills like statistics. Renewed focus on these modules and sharing a common scale will encourage more capable students to take up the more advanced Mathematics subject.
HFC installation premium for customers with existing lead-ins amongst changes in latest NBN product roadmap
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has updated its product roadmap for the third quarter of 2016. Here is a summary of some of the key changes:
nbn’s HFC product launched at the end of last month in a limited footprint in Redcliffe region in Queensland (PR044). The company also recently signed a contract with six delivery partners to upgrade and rollout the existing Telstra HFC footprint for nbn’s use.
Self-install to become default
As part of the current rollout strategy, nbn will send an installer to install the HFC Network Termination Device (NTD) at the customer’s premises when a service is ordered. However, the company plans to implement an RSP install and customer install option by the end of first and second quarter of 2017 respectively (PR112, PR129).
Once this process is implemented, nbn will begin charging customers who already have an existing lead-in a professional NTD installation a fee if they request for one.
Other HFC planned products
Deployment of DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs remain on-track for upgrade by the end of 2016 (CE045).
nbn also plans to introduce service transfers on HFC by September 2016 (PR121), as well as various diagnostic capabilities for Traffic Class 1 services.
The company does not plan to offer business grade “Traffic Class 2” tiers over HFC until 2018 or beyond (PR118).
NBN Satellite Service
ISS migration period extended
The migration of nbn’s existing Interim Satellite Service (ISS) customers to the new “Sky Muster” Long Term Satellite (LTS) service has been extended out until February 2017 (PR023). nbn had originally planned to migrate all its existing ISS customers to the Long Term Satellite solution by the end of 2016.
However, teething issues appeared to have hampered the originally anticipated activation rate — shifting the expected end date for the migration by two months.
There have been numerous reports of missed appointments, inability for NBN NTD modems to reconnect after a power reboot and most recently, the decision to retain the existing ISS satellite service after an LTS installation and retrospectively visit the customer to remove the ISS dish.
Consultation on “Managed Services Education” over Satellite
nbn is investigating the possibility of providing enhanced services for distance education students. The company has listed a number of possible products including a managed unmetered data service and multicast video broadcast services over its LTS service. Consultation on this service is expected to begin in September 2017.
Consultation on “Satellite Mobility” which could enable services like on-board Wi-Fi or Internet access for emergency services in remote areas has also been pushed back slightly to September (PR123).
Cell Site Access Service
As reported earlier, nbn concluded its initial Cell Access trial and has begun offering a Cell Site Access Service (CSAS) test service in Beaudesert, Queensland (PR039).