Latest comments

FCC challenges AT&T claims!

Reg Coutts's picture

Following claims by the AT&T they had holted investment in fibre following President Obama's support for Net Neutrality, the FCC has asked AT&T for evidence of their claims!

AT&T haults investment!

Reg Coutts's picture

In Comms Day this morning I noted AT&T in the US has announced is is freezing broadband rollout in the light of the President's statement in favour of strong Net Neutrality rules by the FCC. Is this part of the game of influence or is it real?

USO options

Reg Coutts's picture


I have been doing research into options for a new USO and looking at what the ITU, OECD and other countries have been debating in the last 10 years while the Australian USO stays time locked!

Vodafone has funded me to look into the issue knowing that I have been saying (in press) the USO should include mobile for 10 years should include mobile service. The Government's 'mobile blackspot program' could be extended subject to objective analysis of the extent of the mobile coverage issue. 

My call 10 years ago precedes the NBN which in a sense has introduced a 'fixed broadband USO' without a policy as per Vertigan of how it is to be funded which goes to the hidden cross subsidy problem.

However, if we are to bring in mobile broadband into the USO option there needs to be an assured minimum broadband service when the kids knock off school! 

Postgraduate at the Schools of Effective Policies and Regulation

The USO, NBN Co and Mobiles

Graham Shepherd's picture

I agree that a USO of some sort is essential in a post Vertigan world of competing infrastructure providers. But what sort of USO? Who contributes and who gets to provide the infrastructure? Mobiles should be part of the consideration. But Telstra has the greatest motivation and the greatest capacity to deliver mobile coverage to regional and remote areas, not NBN Co. What would Telstra's competitors think of subsidising Telstra to expand its coverage?

A detailed analysis of the options needs to be done and argued through with the various players. The starting point would have to be to set criteria for such a study including minimum service quality, cost, equity for consumers and service providers and economic consequences. All of these factors are, of course, evolving so there must be capacity and incentive for continuing research and investment.

As Graeme Samuel pointed out in his excellent CTO, one would hope that such a study would be genuinely independent and not tainted by politics like most of the studies initiated by the current govenment. No disrespect to the MInister is intended but the piper knows the tune without being told.

Graham Shepherd

Obamacare for the Internet!

Reg Coutts's picture

Net Neutrality debate gets colorful!

US politics is always colouful (spelt in English) and Net Neurality debate in the US is a target See 

Net Neutrality debate begins in Australia?

Reg Coutts's picture

With President Abama coming out supporting Network Neutrality noting in particular the call for "no paid prioritization" has debate started in Australia or 'has the horse bolted' as Josh Taylor has written today?

Surely "paid prioritization" is basic network traffic management as long as it is transparent and non-discrimatory?

What do you think?

Malcolm Turnbull's advisors don't accept this argument

Graham Shepherd's picture

The advisors to Malcolm Turnbull, so far, do not accept the argument that "the extreme growth in applications and uses of broadband make it most unlike other utilities." Communications Chambers makes a bewildering case that demand for speed is going to flatten out because of advances in video compression. They seem unaware of drivers for increasing speed and the enormous growth of applications.

I see no evidence of video file sizes decreasing. In fact I see the opposite. The commercial and consumer demand for higher accuracy of reproduction (more colours, better motion) and higher resolution (more pixels and more dimensions) driving research and standards in the opposite direction. And what is stopping them? Certainly not the bandwidth available to end-users which is growing dramatically everywhere, everyday - even in Australia, if NBN ever gets going. Neither is user screen resolution which now typically exceeds print resolution. Colour is a big trick but is important in clothing and soft-furnishings just for colour-matching. All current compression methods degrade colour first because the assumption was once that the eye is less sensitive to it.

The evidence for new bandwidth hungry applications is everywhere before us. Applications in the cloud are gathering, analysing and distributing more data than we have ever contemplated before. Much of this is economically very useful and powerful, not just indulging a whim to lounge about watching more sport or playing high speed games. Research, health, education, mining, agriculture, transport, manufacturing infrastructure management, environmental management are just a few of the areas where revolutions are taking place. Most of these applications are device or environment dependent, not user dependent, so they will make parallel demands on speed, not serial demands like a single video viewer might make.

"Research" - that's if Australia can spare a penny for it.

Graham Shepherd

President Obama tells the FCCC!

Reg Coutts's picture

President Obama has officially come out in support of net neutrality, releasing a statement in which he calls for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify Internet service as a utility.

"President Obama says that the Internet is something that Americans have a basic right to. Therefore, ISPs are much like the utility companies that "connect you to the world" and thus "have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business."

This means no blocking, no throttling, increased transparency and no paid prioritization".

The FCC needs more time!

Reg Coutts's picture

The FCC had said it would be in a position to publish its proposed NN rules by Christmas 2014 that include a 'fast lane internet' concept much to the anger of the many open internet proponents but they need more time to make the rules legaly robust. Maybe 2015 is the year? Meanwhile in Europe it has gone quieet. 

John de Ridder's commentary

Graham Shepherd's picture

John de Ridder's commentary on Graeme Samuel's Charles Todd Oration is worth reading.

I wonder why the most obvious cost saving and risk reduction scenario hasn't been canvassed much. Namely, that the end customer bears the cost of the lead-in and house connection. Treasurer Hockey seems to be happy to pass on costs to consumers at every opportunity and this one wouldn't be much of a departure from the historical approach. Nor would it inhibit Australia's short or long term ability to evolve with the global digital economy.
For telephone connections that has been the case since Telecom started selling instead of renting phones. It has always applied to ADSL and HFC connections (except when special introductory offers were being made).
It is a proposal which would drive towards a FTTN or FTTdp solution rather than an HFC solution but would that be such a big deal given the low penetration of HFC to end users? I know that there are more connections than end-users but Telstra stopped connecting people for free when it became obvious that the lead in connection was very expensive.

Graham Shepherd

Very good contribution, Gary.

Graham Shepherd's picture

Very good contribution, Gary. And very pertinent to Graeme Samuel's presentation at the CTO.

Regarding content:

All of the players, telcos, cable TV providers or OTT providers are now in the game of content. Relying on your access network for your customers is no longer good enough even for the biggest players. For Telstra, having lost its access monopoly, it is now seeking to lock in unique content. Foxtel likewise has to deliver content over any access medium. The proposed Comcast Time Warner merger is just another example of the same transition.

Every player is trying to secure their long-term market share and profitability. Unfortunately few put themselves in the position of the end consumer. In the process they put trust in their own brand at risk.

Content bundling is a particular example of creating distrust in consumers. It's an old autioneer's trick - one attractive item in a box of junk, take it or leave it. Possibly it has been the biggest blocker to Foxtel's growth in Australia. Telstra and Optus stopped rolling out HFC when they experienced churn rates of 30% plus and realised that profitability was going to be years off. The churn was not customers switching between providers but customers switching off. Remember that Telstra built and owned the HFC network for Foxtel but it is not clear that it ever recovered its investment.

Foxtel's price cuts are perhaps just a recognition that their content model stinks as far as consumers are concerned and perhaps it is a transition away from bundling.

The consumer ideal might be of old-style video stores with access to all content competing on price and ability to browse and stream at the highest quality of service. However, it is hard to imagine Amazon, Netflix, Foxtel, Telstra, etc, operating to this model. They are locking up content to keep their customers locked in and their competitors locked out. Mr Regulator, please step up to the mark!

Regarding access:

HFC still remains an enigma to me as a long term (even medium term) access technology. 

To achive gigabit speeds NBNCo needs to invest both in continuing DOCSIS upgrades (relatively cheap) but also deploy many more network nodes (expensive). Managing both HFC and FTTN when the nodes are both approaching a couple of hundred metres to the home seems to me to be a massive duplication of resources and will result in operational headaches. Vertigan has an answer to this but it doesn't stack up to me when FTTP or FTTdp is the obvious end game for both HFC and FTTN. And I believe that the end-game, ie, gigabit access, is much nearer than the current government's advisors suggest.

For FTTN and HFC fibre is going to be deployed deep into the access network, passing most homes.

In the final analysis the most expensive part of the deployment of the NBN is the customer lead-in whether by coax or by fibre. Since almost every residence has copper pair lead-in now, FTTdp would provide a low cost access to everyone without incurring a high lead-in cost. Customers who want more can pay for it. This might be the best way for NBNCo to slash costs and accelerate project completion.

Graham Shepherd

Questions for the next issue of AJTDE

Graham Shepherd's picture


This was an outstanding panel session which drew a full house and lots of engagement from the audience. I understand that Gary and Bob have both agreed to develop the themes they raised in this panel session in the forthcoming December issue of the Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy (

It appears to me that there were two major controversial points made, one by each of Gary and Bob. Both points were challenged strongly by members of the audience. The first by Gary being that, in the absence of any surety of continuing government investment to keep the NBN infrastructure up-to-date, there needs to be commercial competition at the infrastructure level. The argument from the floor was that competition will focus on the most profitable areas, that rural areas will suffer and that it will create high priced commercial oligopolies.

The second point by Bob was his opinion, similar to that expressed by Rob Kenny of Communications Chambers, that demand for speed is going to flatten out because most of the bandwidth problems have been ironed out, eg, music, images and videos are well compressed, that more compression is on the way and that you can only view so much at once. The argument from the floor was that the demand for increasing resolution doesn't seem to be declining, eg, 4K and 8K 3D videos; that applications are growing in number, eg, cloud backup at full res, gaming, imaging and other sensors in every home, farm, device - big data in every way. (One specific example is that the standard image format for archiving is uncompressed TIFF and that the open data initiatives of government are making this freely downloadable, ie, tens/hundreds of thousands of single image files of 100MB plus.)

In their AJTDE articles I would like to see Gary and Bob address these points with specific solutions in Gary's case and specific data in Bob's case. Or: a revision of their thoughts taking into account the points raised in the discussion.

Graham Shepherd

More on Big Data please

Graham Shepherd's picture

I would like to see more articles on big data, particularly concepts (data, analysis, information, knowledge) the evolving structures of big data (including NoSQL databases, file structures, etc), opening of government and other databases, applications, users and forecast impacts on telecommunications networks.

Graham Shepherd

I understand Jane?s argument

James Robert Holmes's picture

I understand Jane?s argument entirely and think that it is conceptually sound.  We do not have access to the figures to support the specific adjustment of 7.2%.  I am not sure why Telstra found it necessary to undertake not to further adjust the price until 2019.  Perhaps it is an act of goodwill or a concession to make acceptance of some increase easier. 

The work of the ACCC and of Henry Ergas does suggest that regulated charges for access lead to under-recovery in the longer term.  As a result the ACCC changed its costing model to a building block approach (to reduce the risk of both under-recovery and over-recovery). 

I cannot see why access seekers should not have to bear a share of increased maintenance and operating costs (assuming that other costs ? such as return on capital employed - do not vary downwards to the same extent.)

Bob James and Gary McLaren

Graham Shepherd's picture

Bob James and Gary McLaren are going to bring different perspectives on the NBN which should spark debate. Bob has been advising the government for sometime on NBN and Gary has been in the thick of it, emerging with some strong views.

Graham Shepherd

Interestingly Netflix has

Reg Coutts's picture

Interestingly Netflix has done a commercial 'interconnect' deal with Comcast where 'for a fee' Netlix customers on Comcast would receive a managed quality of service delivery. They argue this is NOT contrary to their support for NN! Well the FCC in it's 'deep dive' to revive a workable rule making on NN (i.e. won't be successfully contested) has sought details of such interconnect deals from both CTV and Telcocs! It just keeps getting more interesting.


John Rimmer's picture

I'll join - where and how? Congratulations on the move. JR