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Optus CEO Says Data Guzzling Websites Should Pay Telcos

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin says data-guzzling websites such as streaming services should help contribute to the cost of running networks.

Speaking at the Trans-Tasman Business Circle event this week, Bayer Rosmarin said large spikes of data usage during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the NBN pricing ‘mismatch’ and suggested a controversial idea to help telcos charge a fair rate to consumers.

“I think COVID-19 and the rapid increase in data consumption have shown some of the challenges of the current model of CVC charging where all of us provide customers with a fixed price for access to their internet, but then the NBN charges us on a variable basis,” she said.

“Clearly that creates a mismatch that was brought to the surface through COVID.”

This better system could be supported by major data-devouring sites, which have come under scrutiny for the sheer amount of bandwidth they occupy at peak times, such as the evening when users are streaming the most content.

“For example, if they were to stream at higher bit rates – they might want to contribute to the infrastructure that needs to be built to accommodate that,” Bayer Rosmarin added.

“There are some people enjoying 4k or 8k streaming – but that increases prices for everybody, so that a tiny minority of people can benefit.

“I am not looking at blocking access … I think the industry could agree on a bit rate and look at contributions that could be made above it.”

Bayer Rosmarin’s idea is similar to the net neutrality issue in the US where internet providers successfully lobbied for users who access data-guzzling websites to be charged an extra fee, with the pricing model not just based on their data usage.

“I think we can come up with a better, more equitable solution. Instead of waiting for a big blow out, the industry should come together proactively and solve the problem,” she added.

The Optus boss, who was hired as CEO in April, also said it was unfair telco companies were footing the bill for users who had poor NBN experiences.

She said the extra costs from fixing NBN problems were further curtailing the margins telcos made from selling their plans.

“The fact that NBN appointments don’t happen on time and need to be rescheduled, the speeds are not what you expect and when something goes wrong you need to deal with multiple organisations to get technicians out there … all of this adds to the cost.” Bayer Rosmarin said.

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