Since our last post discussing our plans to trial new ways of managing our network, there’s been a lot of discussion online and in the media about the potential implications of these plans. Given this, we thought we’d respond to the most common questions that have been raised since our last post in these trials.

What Are We Doing?

  • Telstra will be conducting two trials:
    • Customer Experience Trial which will test what type of speed based or alternatively application based speed-tiered offers Telstra could take to market in future. This trial will be managed through Telstra’s existing market research customer panel. 
    • Traffic Management Trial which will test peak traffic management policies applying to a small group of Victorian ADSL Customers.
  • Detailed customer letters which outline the details of these trials will be distributed to all potential trial participants before they commence.

Why are we undertaking these trials?

  • The network management practices Telstra is trialling are designed to help us to serve our customers better. They are intended to allow us to provide customers with the quality of service that best suits their needs for the lowest possible price.
  • The results of these trials will inform Telstra’s future product and pricing decisions.

Why doesn’t Telstra just invest in more capacity to avoid these issues?

  • We continue to invest in enhancing our networks to ensure our customers enjoy the best possible quality of service.
  • This trial is about testing options to ensure that the investments that we are making are the most efficient way to ensure our customers enjoy the quality of service they demand.
  • As we recently publicly told the ACCC:

“Telstra’s goal is to optimise the customer experience by managing congestion on its ADSL network through price, investment and technical means. Traffic on Telstra’s ADSL network has on average doubled every 12 months for the past four years, driven to a large extent by growth in demand for real time entertainment. Without continued congestion management further growth in traffic will result in more congestion at peak times, negatively impacting on the customer experience.’

  • This trial is simply about examining the potential technical means to assist in this task.

Why is Telstra ‘targeting’ Peer to Peer (P2P) in these trials?

  • Telstra is not targeting one particular form of traffic. We’re testing a range of different options for a range of classes of traffic services under these trials.
  • One of the options being examined under this trial is the shaping of specific services (including some P2P traffic types including Bittorrent) in certain circumstances and within certain times. The key characteristic of Bittorrent peer to peer traffic that is relevant to our network traffic management trials is the fact that most such traffic is not time-critical – for example, compared with VoIP or video streaming – and so might be slowed without significant consumer detriment. Other types of P2P services (eg some gaming services, Skype etc) will not be targeted for shaping this traffic management trial.
  • Our sole objective in this trial is identifying options for improving our network management to ensure that all of our customers enjoy the best quality service for their needs at the best possible price.

Why has Telstra mentioned P2P Copyright infringement in commenting on these trials?

  • Telstra recognises that P2P has a range of legitimate uses.
  • Our blog post on this trial included reference to piracy because of initial media inquiries about the trial which asked about intellectual property infringement.
  • This trial isn’t about piracy, it’s about getting smarter about the way we manage our networks and better matching the characteristics of our products and services with our customers’ diverse needs.
  • Telstra does not condone copyright infringement.  It is an industry issue that has been, and continues to be, the basis for ongoing dialogue among all relevant stakeholders.  Our position on copyright remains the same.

Is Telstra collecting information about copyright infringement as part of this trial?

  • No.
  • This project is solely about testing network management practices to determine if they improve our overall customer service.

Is Telstra throttling P2P traffic at the request of Rights Holders or with the intent of deterring alleged intellectual property infringement?

  • No.

Is Telstra sharing information about alleged copyright infringement with rights holders as part of this trial?

  • No.
  • Telstra’s priority is our customers. Telstra has consistently stated that the only circumstances in which we would (and in fact legally can) identify our customers to third parties is if required to by law.

Are you using Deep Packet Inspection for these Trials? What does this mean?

  • Yes.

Telstra is trialling network measures that allow customised management of different types of traffic on our network. The technology we are using looks at characteristics of the data packet to identify the type of the traffic present. In short, we are looking at the characteristics of each packet to see the type of traffic, but we are not looking at the content. This means while we identify a packet as being for example, P2P, we do not know or record any of the content or information that it contains.

What if I’m not a part of this trial? Will the technology being used in this trial touch my broadband service?

  • No.
  • All individuals whose broadband service may be touched by this trial will be given the opportunity to opt-out if they do not want to be part of the trial.

Do these trials raise ‘Net Neutrality’ issues? Doesn’t Australia need US style ‘Net Neutrality’ laws?

  • The Australian telecommunications landscape is very different to America. The absence of infrastructure access regulation in the United States means that consumers have few alternatives should their ISP adopt network management practices that do not suit their needs.
  • In Australia, access regulation means that customers are able to choose from a large number of ISPs with a wide range of network management practices. Competition will ensures that ISPs offer products with network management practices that best meet customer needs. If an Australian ISP applied network management practices that were not in customers’ interests, these customers would vote with their feet and move to an ISP with different network management practices.
  • In countries with access regimes like Australia’s (eg the UK), regulators have generally not seen a need to regulate these practices as the discipline of the market protects consumer interests.
  • The key issue for policy makers and network operators in the Australian context is ensuring effective transparency of network management practices to allow customers to make an informed choice about the network practices applied to the services they buy.
  • Telstra is committed to giving our customers all the information they need to choose products and services with the characteristics that best meet their needs.

Is Telstra prioritising its own traffic over that of other content providers in these trials?

  • No.

Do these trials raise privacy issues?

  • This trial does not involve any monitoring or tracking of websites visited by our customers, and the trial’s findings, including customer feedback, will be collected in accordance with our Privacy Statement and all Australian Privacy Laws.

What data is Telstra collecting about users in these trials?

  • Customers will be surveyed during the trial to help determine their usage experience which will be used to determine the suitability of adopting such practices.

This trial does not involve any monitoring or tracking of websites visited by our customers, and the trial’s findings, including customer feedback, will be collected in accordance with our Privacy Statement and all Australian privacy laws.

I’ve paid for ‘x’ gigabytes under my Telstra plan, aren’t I entitled to use them?

  • Yes.
  • It is important to remember that these trials will only affect a limited number of customers for a limited period of time. If you are not part of the trial your service will not be affected. Customers will be able to opt out at any time during the course of the trial. Customers who do participate in the trials and complete the surveys will receive a rebate on their monthly plan.
  • Regardless, none of the options being tested in these trials would prevent any customer from utilising their full data usage entitlement. Some of the options being considered would affect the speed of data consumption for the use of particular services in particular circumstances, but in no case would these options prevent a customer from using their full data usage entitlement.