The last few days has been filled with controversy for gamers when it comes to Australia’s National Broadband Network. In a parliamentary hearing held in Sydney on Monday, NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow addressed numerous concerns over slowdowns to Australia’s already heavily overtaxed and outdated NBN infrastructure. Among these concerns was a question posed by Labor’s regional communications spokesperson Stephen Jones who asked what had been causing significant spikes in data use during peak times. It was at this point Mr Morrow replied: “Gamers predominantly on fixed wireless.”
Mr Morrow went on to tell the committee “While people are gaming it is a high bandwidth requirement that is a steady streaming process” explaining his plan to shape high volume users (such as gamers) with a plan that he described as follows “This is where you can do things, to where you can traffic shape. Where you say, no, no, no, we can only offer you service when you’re not impacting somebody else.”
While some games and gaming systems do have the potential to use a large portion of data particularly when regular game updates are required or large content downloads are available, its the general thought among most gamers that online gaming uses such a small portion of your data that it doesn’t require regulating or limiting. In fact most gamers will tell you that streaming services use much more data than gaming and that they’ve often been caught out on their monthly allowance due to binge watching their favourite movies or TV show. For a closer look at just how different those numbers can be when it comes to gaming and streaming you can take a look at the following link located here, as the ABC has done the hard work for you.
Online gaming requires hardly any bandwidth ~10+ megabytes per hour.
A 720p video file requires ~ 500+ megabytes per hour.
One user watching a YouTube video occupies the same bandwidth as ~50 video gamers.
The NBN chief might not be suitably qualified for this role.
— Danny Williams (@Danny14723431) June 4, 2018
It wasn’t all a blame game however, under further question Mr Morrow revealed that NBN Co didn’t quite have the information on the overall behaviour of users to back up the claims he was making that gamers were in fact the problem, instead stating that “people who do have familiarity with it” is likely to be the end cause. When raising the issue once more Labor’s regional communications spokesperson Stephen Jones offered up the suggestion that Mr Morrow had in fact characterised or labelled gamers as the “problem”.
Thankfully Greens digital rights spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John is on the side of gamers telling SBS News “Video games are designed to maximise available technologies. The fact that Australians users are having a diminished experience is an indictment on the quality and design of our NBN, relative to other countries, and not an opportunity to lay blame. We should be building a national broadband network that is fit-for-purpose, not blaming a small section of the community who are trying to use a service that simply does not meet their needs.”
So where does all this leave us as gamers? Well in an interesting turn of events NBN Co issued a statement insisting that its CEO Bill Morrow was only singling out online gamers as an “example” of heavy users and not blaming them for the NBN’s current failings during peak periods.
In the statement issued to ABC News, NBN Co the body responsible for the rollout of the National Broadband Network across Australia said “Mr Morrow didn’t ‘blame’ online gamers for congestion on the fixed wireless network, he identified them as an example of a heavy user, which, as he said earlier in the hearing, is not the main cause of congestion. The main cause of congestion is concurrency, in addition to higher-than-expected take-up and consumption.”
And whilst its nice to see the NBN Co taking the concerns of gamers seriously enough to do a bit of a back peddle by issuing a statement “clarifying” its CEO’s words in Mondays hearing, as a gamer I have to wonder when we’ll see the end of this wheel of fortune blame game.