Would a Smart Speaker from Facebook be welcome ?

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Do you trust Facebook anymore? Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are in damage control mode, due to the data sharing in the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook, due to low privacy controls, allowed the app to access the personal data of potentially up to 80 million people, even data that Facebook users didn’t know they were publicly sharing. The social media site are in a privacy crisis at the moment, with allegations that certain election groups also used people’s data to potentially influence elections. While everyone frantically updates their privacy on the site, and potentially millions receiving notification this week that their data was, in fact, compromised, the bad press cycle continues. It’s doubtful that our appetite for the social media giant will suffer too much, but it definitely means a lack of trust for Facebook. But, we don’t want them inside our homes. It seems that Facebook have quietly admitted the same to themselves, as the launch of their smart speaker, to rival Amazon or Google, has been shelved. This makes sense, as we share so much with our smart devices, like our bank details or appointments or even more personal data about ourselves. Sadly, Facebook have realised that we just can’t trust them at the moment with this kind of personal access, especially while we still await answers and action plans from the company about protecting our data. It remains to be seen whether this indefinite delay will scupper their plans for a smart speaker altogether, as we see Amazon and Google get further ahead every day, and the longer Facebook wait the less chance they have of clawing smart home consumers back from the giants. It’s out of their hands at the moment though, as there’s definitely no appetite for Facebook spying in our homes.

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Telco forced to refund customers

Two of Australia’s major telcos have refunded customers on the NBN “Boosted” Speed plans. Following a Watchdog investigation for false advertising on speeds capable on NBN Connections, the ACCC reported they are  providing more detailed guidance concerning  implementation principles for advertising the speeds of retail fixed-line broadband plans.

After Investigations the ACCC has forced opts to refund customers on FTTN Connections after it was discovered almost 50%  of Optus FTTN consumers on a 100/40 Mbps plan could not receive promised speeds, and 21% of that would not even receive speeds HALF that which was promised.

Telstra actually prompted the investagtion by coming clean that they had broken consumer law by promoting NBN speeds that it was not capable of delivering- Offering refunds to 42,000+ customers.

If you are not receiving promised speeds on a telco “boosted” plan, know your rights. You can read more from the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission HERE or if you are being kept in the dark by your telco you can submit a complaint with the Telecommunications ombudsman HERE

But if you are experiencing service dropouts on a HFC connection, or Cable broadband connection, your telco might not be able to help you. NBN.co are currently backpedalling on the HFC connections and blaming everyone else but themselves for the HFC connection failing, Especially concerning interruptions to current broadband (non-nbn) connections. Facts point to the government funded company being aware of potential interruptions to HFC connections further down the line back in 2016. At the time of realising this NBN.co were “not aware of the state of the Telstra HFC connection” and were not aware of the “optimisation” (repair) the network needed. NBN.co are now blaming lack of information and a risky judgement call as the reason for the pull of over 370,000 current HFC connection and ceasing the roll out of new HFC connection. The decision to halt all HFC connections and roll-out will result in an average delay of between six to nine months for millions of households looking to sign up,

(I’d hate to see the state of the Optus network now, considering NBN.co had already dropped the Optus HFC network claiming it was “not fully fit for purpose”)

Basically NBN.co is admitting what we already knew, they have screwed up the new network, and the old network in one big tax dollars black hole. Pulling the HFC connection will ultimately lead to more wasted money, and time. If your resident falls into the HFC / old broadband connection, and are experiencing poor service, refer to the link above and let the Telecommunications Ombudsman know.

And if you are not receiving speeds promised by your Telco, let them know first, and after they have “fixed” it then go check out the ACCC website.

Stacey Friswell
Article Author

NBN fake stats and false speeds

As mentioned in a previous installment the nbn cost is a hot topic amongst many Australian communities for the time being. As the nbn fibre network is still being rolled out and estimated to be finished late 2018 early 2019. But a more heated topic in the news is the speeds. With the many types of connections can bring different speeds per connection, what the public already using the fibre network are most concerned about however is the difference in official reports speeds vs. the speed they are paying for and experiencing. Under the new NBN program is you want decent speeds you will have to pay even more to ensure you get the speed required, so even when the network might be capable of faster speeds, you have to pay a higher rate to access that boosted speed.

According to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
“ONE-in-four Australians are unhappy with the speed of their fast broadband connection,” NBN complaints are rising at a faster rate than the number of users. This might be because to install the fibre network to the pre existing cooper network the current service will get disrupted and crippled to do so. So even if a household is not on the nbn they still may experience drop outs and slow speeds because of it.

The proportion of national broadband network customers complaining about faults to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman rose to 0.66 per cent in the 12
months to June 30, from 0.50 per cent a year earlier.

On top of complaints to the ombudsman about speed and drop outs within both networks the other serious complaint coming out is about the lack of solid information available to consumers about the fibre networks capabilities.
Mr Sims said the ACCC is working towards retailers providing accurate information on what consumers can realistically expect from their internet service provider (ISP).
“We want to see retailers moving away from unhelpful, easily misconstrued and inconsistently applied claims like ‘up to’, ‘boost’ and ‘superfast’, and from advertising and/or providing information about theoretical maximum speeds that are based on wholesale inputs,” he said.

For consumers it is important to get the speed you are paying for, To get an accurate idea of your connection and use speed it is suggested to test your conenction at different times and days, and use an independant testing service.

Similar to testing services such as;

Speedtest.net

Oz Broadband Speed Test

Testmy.net

Mr Turnbull, who was communications minister before becoming Prime Minister, said many of the problems were caused by the way the project was designed. and recently publicly came out claiming that “The NBN was a calamitous train wreck of a project when we came into government in 2013,”

For the PM to say that about his own previous role, you know it must be a mess- even if he fabulously passes the blame back onto the opposing party. All Australia is left with is what NBN.co decides, so we as a collective must hope that the kinks iron out and Australia can catch up to the rest of the world.

Stacey Friswell
Article Author

FTTP vs. FTTC vs. FTTN vs. FTTB vs. HFC – NBN WHAT THE HELL?!

Consumers are left absolutely confuddled after yet again another planned switch in NBN plan. Recently NBN.co CEO announce the switch to FTTC to lower costs as many consumers have been unhappy with speed vs costs produced under the new ISP plans.  With many consumers still confused on the FTTN to FTTP shift which was discussed back in June 2016 AFTER construction to the Fibre to the node network had started. The change to the policy was announced in June 2016

” The FTTN roll-out will be phased out as soon as current design and construction contracts are completed”.

That’s right, if you already had NBN connection in your area you have FTTN which is Fibre to the Node, It was already planned and paid for, so they kept going.  This was then “fixed” by the FTTC Fibre to the Curb Policy; which again, if you already had NBN Fibre TOO LATE, they are not coming back to fix it. So what is a “Node” you ask? It’s like a central connection point, which a “node”are those big ugly khaki boxes you see on the sidewalk, well, you will be seeing them a lot more if you don’t know the ones. In fact, there has already been an uproar about the nodes, with some residents having part of their front yards taken away for them, for badly placed node cabinets. There are entire news articles and twitter accounts still existing, for poor citizens pleading to the the “node” removed. The node cabinet has brought other issues than just big and ugly, much more important issues.

For starters, node cabinets bring more things to hit during car accidents, and that’s not an easy fix, that’s an entire neighbourhood without phone or internet. They encourage vandals, graffiti and damages to the node, which means for tax payers dollars to fix or clean it. There has been reports and claims of node’s “blowing up” or “exploding” because of the large batteries in them, Or when they have good batteries, Thieves are breaking in and destroying the cabinet to steal the battery as they are quite expensive.

(Have I mentioned the Battery yet? your probably wondering why it has a battery?)

The Node connection requires constant power to be connected. So, if power goes out, so does anything that uses the NBN – including phone lines, Medical alarm, auto-dialler or emergency call button, Security alarm, EFTPOS or health claim terminal, Monitored fire alarm, Lift emergency phone, Fax and teletypewriter devices.

For the Homes, Businesses, Medical Facilities and Media Stations, whom all rely on generators and backup power in black outs. This Node Technology can cause MAJOR issues, as in emergency situations where blackouts occur, who can potentially be without power for a few hours – that could be a few hours too long, as the batteries can only last a MAXIMUM of 9 hrs but with use they expect a minimum of 3 hours.

With Australian storm damage, and power grid failures on the rise this is an increasing issue, residents of Brisbane have already been warned for the coming summer that the power grid could fail from overuse and last year parts of south Australia went days without power. if your mobile dies during an emergency you could be left with no way of contacting help if needed. THANKS NBN!

So What do all the types of connection mean? to put it simply

FTTN – Fibre to the node – means the connection goes to the node box, and then your house connects with the pre-existing copper cable to the node.

FTTC- Fibre to the Curb – means the connection forgoes the node issue, and runs straight to the footpath (curb) of the street, usually having smaller connection point in a pit in the footpath. (this also requires power, but also special equipment in your home)

FTTP – Fibre to the Premises – as the name suggests the optic fibre line will be run from the nearest available fibre node, to your premises ( this is an expensive option)

FTTB – Fibre to the Building –  Is usually in a shared address scenario such as business buildings or apartments – NBN.co will run a fibre optic line to the building communications room.

HFC – Hybrid Fibre Coaxial –  where the existing ‘pay TV’ or cable network can be used to make the final part of the Connection from the node.

To find out what sort of Connection you have Click here.

Stacey Friswell
Article Author

The Increasing Cost of Australia’s NBN

It is a well-known fact that Australia has around the 6th most expensive I.S.P costs in the world and the land down under sits well under on the list of world internet speed. Currently sitting 51st  for internet speed we are the lowest first world score for that pre-mentioned eye watering high price tag. Now the cost of our internet is not on the government (directly) It’s on the I.S.P

This is because of the few companies that have stakes in selling internet services. This is the part most people don’t understand; while Australia has over 150 + I.S.P. companies Telstra still have a monopoly over the country as they own and/or part own 8 of the submarine internet cables connecting the country to the remaining world. That -DATA?!- is then sold off to the remaining I.S.P’s or handed down to child and sibling countries. With Google, Vodafone and Optus part owning some of the remaining infrastructure.

As mentioned in the previous installation of the NBN train wreck pieces, the National Broadband Network is not a Telco but an infrastructure NETWORK, which is partly why the plans went ahead to begin with. Back in 2006-2009 when the network was first proposed, the governing parties in play first looked to the privately owned I.S.P to build this network. Which would of course allow one company to hold this said monopoly over the other businesses and cost of Australian internet. Telstra was the first to “bid” for a chance to build the infrastructure, with Optus choosing to create a somewhat partnership known as a consortium, with companies Internode Systems, iiNet, Macquarie Telecom, Primus, TransACT,  Soul,  Powertel and AAPT. Which thwarted Telstra’s bid, and left the government to reconsider this decision. This was the time the company NBN.co was created as a private-public firm

The initial predicted cost and time of NBN.co to plan, and implement the Fibre network was around 26 billion AUD and around 5 years to start (2014) and 7 years to finish (2016). However so far, the NBN planning and roll out has cost a recent estimate of over $50 billion AUD – that’s TWICE the amount the public was told it would cost.  not to mention the promise of the install being complete in 2016. (she writes in October 2017). NBN.co and the Governments plans have failed MASSIVELY on both the time and cost of the entire project. 50 MILLION tax payer’s dollars, also take into consideration that for the NBN to be considered successful according to CEO Bill Morrow the company nbn.co must make a profit, after repaying government loans and returning the government’s investment through dividends. And as stats prove for the time being this is unlikely to happen, with the current use of mobile data and the speed of the current 4G network (not to mention tech companies are looking to roll out for a faster & stronger 5g network).

“There were 13.7 million internet subscribers in Australia at the end of June 2017. This is an increase of 2.1% from the end of December 2016. Fibre connections grew by 49.8% in the six months between December 2016 and June 2017. There were 2.1 million fibre connections in June 2017, an increase of 123.3% for the year between June 2016 and June 2017.” According the bureau of statistics

Consumers were led to believe they could access broadband speeds of between 12-25 MBS for the same price they were paying for a pre-NBN service of 5 MBS. what they were not told is those speed come down to a somewhat lottery of cabling infrastructure that is pre-existing in your neighbourhood. Through NBN.co there is potentially 6 different connection types, with each of them capable of different speeds. To ensure you get the faster connection you can privately pay to have that connection type run directly to your house, and sometimes this may require though the streets. With the latest reports showing residents in Tasmania spent $91,196 for a single home. on the nbn.co website it directly states that to have this type of connection run it can be costly from $1000 to tens of thousands to secure your fastest option connection. Keeping in mind this is just the installation fee thought NBN.co, those poor residents then approach their I.S.P and pay a further inflated cost to secure a faster speed package the program says it will review the $49 billion NBN project as it passes the halfway mark of the broadband rollout. This comment comes as they announce to switch from FTTP to FTTC to lower costs

The next NBN feature installments will continue about the type of connections and potential speed, click here to keep reading…

Stacey Friswell
Article Author

WHY THE NBN WAS DOOMED

For many Australians the promise of a faster and more reliable internet service, would be a dream, easing a lot of work and home life frustration, and that’s just what the Government did back in 2007. The government promised Australia access to a faster, and more reliable fibre connected internet to service the most populated areas of Australia. The NBN has been a key issue in the past two elections however what most consumers are not aware of is that the National Broadband Network (known as NBN for short) is being constructed and planned by a “new company” according the corresponding government parties. This company designed purposefully to deal with the oncoming design, build and operate Australia’s new high-speed fibre network. NBN.co which was established in 2009 when the government first proposed the national broadband network should be run as a private-public firm to build the network. The government would sell its majority stake after five years (2014) when the network was fully operational.

So, what has EIGHT years of planning and preparation gotten us?

To put it simply; unofficially an unknown amount in debt (suspected just over 50 billion AUD), much of the nation pissed off, corresponding telco’s kept in the dark, NBN.co has changed the approach to said plan ATLEAST 3 times so far, and to cap it off it’s now 2017 and the NBN roll out is still not complete. The Australian government couldn’t organise a wet fart, no matter which party is currently in control – that’s not new news to MOST Australians. But how did this great plan go so wrong? And what is the nation facing when it is finally (god forbid) finished.

For starters the if the original concept and idea came from 2009 the plan was doomed to begin with, technology has come a long way since 2009 to put that into perspective

• the top selling phone of 2009 was the NOKIA 5230 (the iPhone was still only relatively new, and the model released that year was a 3GS)

• the billboard number 1 song in Australia was poker face from lady gaga.

• 2009 was the last year that Holden Racing Team won the Bathurst 1000

• Australia was protecting its boarders from the swine flu

• There has been FIVE prime ministers since 2009

Compared to technology available today in late 2017, we have developers discussing AI Technology, Telcos and entire companies introducing Australia to the smart home. The tech market has gone through MANY changes including

• the arrival and somewhat death of new gen 3D technology

• the start of VR gaming and headsets

• the revival of the mobile tablet with the creation of the iPad

• the birth and death of the windows smart phone

• Wearable smart tec

3 MILLION people more in the country and some of Australia is FINALLY being connected to the 2009 planned national broadband network, with the first quarter of connections being completed by mid-2016, it’s needless to say that technology has come a very long way in those few years since planning. As mentioned above since the first planning of the NBN we have had 5 major changes in government leadership, and that is partly the reason why the NBN was doomed, with the failure of political leadership, there was no chance the NBN would ever work out with all the political movements in the nations governing parties. None of the country’s leaders ever did the work of investigating and explaining what an NBN truly was. Contrary to popular uneducated opinions, the NBN and NBN.co is NOT an Internet Service Provider (I.S.P) – it is an infrastructure, like that of the city sewers, or roads. The national broadband network is (OMG SHOCK ITS IN THE NAME) a NETWORK!!!!

If you want to know more about the train wreck called NBN click here to keep reading…

Stacey Friswell
Article Author

NBN Hassles

So, real talk for a moment, today I write this article 4 HOURS later than i planned to work. THANKS TO THE NBN. It’s the big subject in Australian tech lately, with a lot of contesting stories and reports, in our office we have a cable internet connection of current – a cable that the NBN program is ‘borrowing’.

Now I am all for everyone in Australia have good, reliable and secure internet connections. BUT it should not be at the detriment of current cable internet speed and reliability. NBN is great for anyone on ADSL connections as of late hitting 4m/s speed. but for businesses on reliable and fast cable connections are going to lose speed. and we have already lost reliability and we are sick of it, every time there is “maintenance” or “upgrades” we lose all connection into the building.

In a time, span of 6 months, we have had NO CONNECTION during business hours around 10 times each time for OVER AN HOUR, during valuable business hours.  I spoke to a NBN worker today during our outage, I ventured across the road and nicely interrupted him to check if what he was doing would be the cause for our complete outage. i received a sneer back and a catty response claiming everyone was sent an email warning them of potential maintenance times. I exclaimed how “nothing was or could be received”, and he then yelled back “well you should check you junk mail”. (I don’t like being yelled at so I got a bit snarky now)

So In response “I’m sorry sir, but we have complete control over our email server and we have received no emails or ‘junk’ claiming the NBN could cause outages for our paid service. this is ridiculous. I understand you have a job to do but I assure you the depart in control of the NBN installation does not send warning emails, as they have not collected anyone’s emails to send said emails, so there is nowhere for them to send them. Just hurry up because you are messing with our business.”

Then in a last attempt to get some sort of internet into the building I went to garden city Telstra store t but a 4g wireless modem, and the store manager of Telstra sided with me claiming they get told the same thing AND THEY ARE THE SERVICE PROVIDER who should keep to their service contract.

But a huge thanks to Telstra who came through for use with free couple gig of data to use for the day, helping the office get all the work done as we ended up being without internet for 3 hrs on that particular day

All in all, we at about automation are completely on the fence of the NBN coming. For our actual USE of the NBN we are expecting SLOWER and LESS RELIABLE speeds, we are already sick to death of the drop outs. We sincerely hope that all this drama is worth at least something for some Australians, considering how much the government is spending on these upgrades.

SOURCES