BIRRR in the BIG SMOKE – a fortnight of action (MEDIA RELEASE: November 2, 2016)

PDF of RELEASE: BIRRR in the BIG SMOKE – a fortnight of action (November 2, 2016)


A chance to take the Data Drought battle to the major decision makers over the past fortnight saw BIRRR representatives head to Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane last week, taking in awards events, roundtable discussions, national forums and meetings with ministerial staff.

Admin team members for lobby group ‘Better Internet for Rural Regional and Remote Australia’, Kristy Sparrow and Kylie Stretton, represented rural internet users across the country as they addressed the NFF National Congress and shared concerns with Ministerial advisors at Parliament House.  Fellow admins Julie Stott attended the ACCAN roundtable in Sydney, while Amanda Salisbury joined Kristy for nbn video hookup from Brisbane.

Kristy took to the stage in a panel discussion on ‘Telecommunications in the Bush’, before a large crowd at the NFF annual congress alongside Iñaki Berroeta (Vodafone), Bill Morrow (CEO, NBN Co) and Senator Fiona Nash (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government & Territories Minister for Regional Communications).

She introduced the BIRRR group to those gathered, explaining its history, purpose and actions.

“BIRRR is a community of volunteers that help guide Tripe R people through the bush telecommunications ‘jungle’.  We have contributed over 8000 volunteer hours and filled a large gap that no one else seems to want to tackle. We work alongside all interested parties to highlight issues and to offer solutions where possible,” Kristy told the NFF Congress crowd.

Kristy told individual stories of BIRRR members battling to gain decent connection to run businesses, educate their children and stay connected in an increasingly digital world.  She also shared some interim results from a survey currently being run by BIRRR.

Ongoing issues with the long-term internet satellite, SkyMuster, described by nbn as a  ‘game changer’, were also addressed.  One strong survey result shows that 42% of respondents using SkyMuster have no other form of internet.

“We hope Sky Muster will become more reliable and that the so-called ‘teething problems’ that have plagued the last few months can be sorted quickly,” Kristy said.

“It is imperative that sky muster becomes much more reliable, and meets the needs of RRR users – the outages and issues over the past few months have devastated some rural businesses and jeopardised children’s education.”

“Bush people are required, and expected to have, connectivity.  There must be greater investment in ensuring bush communities have the tools to meet business needs.”

BIRRR received confirmation last week that nbn co have:

  • changed its call centre policy and protocols so that satellite end users will not be referred immediately to their RSP.
  • nbn’s call centre will now be able to provide basic network outage information so that callers will at the very least know if the network is down in their area.
  • set up ‘a dedicated regional support team inside this call centre to handle rural addressing issues, location I.D generation, non-standard fixed wireless installs, or other issues that people living in regional, rural and remote areas experience’.
  • nbn will also incorporate this approach into its official Facebook page, nbn Australia.

The announcement of this change of policy in the nbn customer call centre, just prior to the NFF Congress, was met with cautious approval.

“We are looking forward to nbn providing more direct and responsive communication to end users – we will continue to work with industry groups and government to ensure nbn understands the significance of the data drought and the urgent need to address bush connectivity,” Kristy said.

During her meetings and at the Congress, Kristy also told Senator Nash, nbn co and provider reps that they needed to work toward establishing:

  • A funded extension and advisory service – a ‘technology hub’ to help guide people
  • Extending the fixed wireless footprint, especially to towns currently on ADSL, yet mapped for Sky Muster
  • Providers & nbn to establish RRR call centres.

“The bush needs urgent assistance in getting connected and having plans that meet their needs. For RRR regions to grow it is essential for businesses, families and communities to have access to, and be able to best utilise, digital technology. We need to ensure our towns and communities are not disadvantaged in the digital age due to our postcode and population.

“BIRRR appreciated the opportunity to have a discussion with nbn co’s CEO and reps, to be part of the ACCAN roundtable, to present at the NFF Congress, meet with Minister Nash’s office, nbn and Department of Communications.  We feel like we were heard in our meetings with each of these important industry groups.”

Kristy also recently won the Innovation and Leadership category at the Queensland Regional Achievement and Community Awards in Brisbane.

“It has been a hectic couple of weeks, but we feel like we are making some headway in addressing bush broadband issues,” Kristy said.


Sky Muster customers seeking nbn support on outages and nbn-related issues can call 1800 687 626 or email

The BIRRR group page can be found here, with website resource here.


Kristy Sparrow with her Innovation and Leadership award at the Queensland Regional Achievement and Community Awards


Minister for Regional Telecommuncations, Senator Fiona Nash with BIRRR’s Kristy Sparrow and nbn co’s Bill Morrow (at the NFF Congress in Canberra)


BIRRR Chief Admin Kristy Sparrow addresses the NFF Congress during a panel discussion on ‘Telecommunications in the Bush’.


ACCAN roundtable group photo, including BIRRR’s Julie Stott (second from left, middle row).


BIRRR admin reps Kylie Stretton and Kristy Sparrow toured nbn co headquarters while in Sydney, with Gavin Williams, nbn co’s Executive General Manager, New Developments, Wireless and Satellite.

How to use your off-peak data

This article is particularly helpful for nbn Sky Muster Satellite customers. 

SKYMUSTER hours (regardless of your provider) will be:

PEAK: 7am – 1am and OFF-PEAK: 1am to 7am

Wondering how to best utilise your off peak data?

Here are some ways to get the most out of your satellite plans.

Mac Systems: You need to perform a few simple tasks to prepare for scheduled downloads. First, go to System Preferences > Energy Saver and press the Schedule button. Check the Start up or wake check box and select the time for your Mac to wake. You want it to wake at least 1 minute before your Calendar event will fire, to ensure that you are connected to the Internet. Once you have set the wake day and time, click OK and close the Energy Saver window.


Operating system updates for Windows 10 and Apple iOS are AUTOMATIC, you cannot schedule them. Earlier versions of Windows can be scheduled.

How to Schedule Windows 10 PRO UPDATES



PlayOn is a program that allows you to record movies and TV shows during off peak times. You can record streaming video from over 100 popular streaming sites including Netflix. Recordings are saved as .MP4 video files which can be easily transferred to an iPad or iPhone via iTunes, or to an Android mobile device. Cost is $2.50US a month. WINDOWS Compatible Only

Playon Cloud

  • Is compatible with both Windows computers and Apple devices. More information about PlayOn Cloud is here. 
  • PlayOn Cloud is a mobile app that can be used to record and then download video files during off peak times.  This is useful for those on satellite connections (who usually have unused off peak data), those who are experiencing network congestion, slow equipment and those wanting to download movies and clips for times when you need to watch offline e.g plane trips and travel.


MAC Users: The following link shows you how to schedule downloads (apps, music, movies, TV shows etc) in off peak times in itunes using a Mac CLICK HERE  You can also use this method to update apps in off peak times and then connect your i-device to the computer / itunes and update on your device or transfer downloads without using data.


Use the following links to sync your dropbox files at night during off peak times.


APPLE: Apple iOS are only automatic if you are connected via WiFi or cable. If the device is Cellular only, it is NOT automatic, and can be scheduled but therefore can’t use your Sky Muster off peak data for these updates.


Install a DOWNLOAD SCHEDULER to your computer that allows large file downloads to be scheduled during off peak hours. They work by adding a link to the file you want downloaded and then scheduling this download.  Some recommended download schedulers are:

Once you have installed the download scheduler application you can choose the time/day you wish to download the file(s).

WARNING: Please be careful with download manager add-ons, some have been known to be malicious and deliberately spam users or Hijack user’s computers.

Do not click on any pop ups, links, ads or programs that promise to speed up your computer or internet connection – these often contain malicious software. These links or ads are especially common on popular speed testing websites.



Email Scheduler for Gmail lets you schedule email messages inside Gmail with the help of a Google Spreadsheet. You can write your messages now and Gmail will send them later at your specified date and time, thus you can schedule it to use your off peak data. The scheduler can also send recurring emails that go out automatically on daily, weekly, monthly or yearly repetitive schedule.


Microsoft Outlook can also schedule delivery (and reception) of email messages.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your ISP regarding off peak data if you have any concerns.  As the #datadrought mainly impacts satellite customers with off peak data we have focussed on off peak data for these customers.   Thanks to BIRRR members  Julie Stott & Kye Rosendale for assistance in compiling this document.  


Internet Survey unearths critical need for widespread changes to combat #DataDrought

The Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) Regional Internet Access Survey, released this week, has revealed critical problems with Australia’s current internet options, and warns of long-term consequences if changes are not urgently made.

The survey, distributed through the BIRRR Facebook group, investigates current consumer conditions for people in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia using the internet.

The in-depth report found that rural, regional and remote people are severely disadvantaged in terms of access, speeds, cost and reliability of their internet connections, whether they be via mobile broadband or via satellite.

These issues have had (and continue to have) a dramatic effect on rural, regional and remote peoples business, the education of their children and themselves, and on their personal well-being.

It also illustrates the notion – even with the onset of NBN’s Skymuster – that data growth will soon outgrow the nbn Fair Use Policy that will see 75GB/month peak use data limits on customers.

Among the statistics revealed from this survey:

Internet in RRR Australia is mainly used for business (Fig 2, p 8)
88% of RRR respondents stated current data did not meet their needs (Fig 5, p10)
Mobile Broadband costs those surveyed an average of $9.27 per GB, with some consumers paying up to $20 per GB. (p18)
Satellite broadband costs an average of $15.96 per GB, with some consumers paying up to $70 per GB (Table 20, p 28)
63% of respondents are shaped more than 6 times per year, with over 40% being shaped every single month. (Table 11 p 19 for mobile, Table 23, p 29 for satellite)
74% of mobile broadband users (Fig 11, p21) and 89% of satellite users (Fig 18, p 30) have download speeds under 5Mbps
72% of mobile broadband users had to purchase extra equipment at their own cost, usually between $1000 – $2000 (Fig 20, p33)
73 % respondents do not have reliable mobile coverage (Fig 20, p33)
41% said their address would not register on the NBN database. (Fig 21, p 35)
65% of people not confident that they are aware of their nbn options (Fig 23, page 40)
92% gave a score of six or above indicating that they would recommend the BIRRR to friends and family (Fig 24, p 41)

BIRRR founder and admin Kristy Sparrow said the results reinforce the need for an independent telecommunications advisory body to help guide consumers through the bush broadband ‘jungle of options and answers’, along with an established universal service guarantee for regional Australians.

“There needs to be an established service guarantee for internet services Australia wide. Service for regional, rural and remote customers should be equitable in terms of speed, download capabilities and costs.

“If this does not occur regional Australia will be left (even further) behind.”

The survey was conducted up to the end of January 2016, and reflects the incredible frustrations endured by those living and using internet beyond Australia’s city limits.

“There is little doubt that the world is becoming more and more centred around the internet – from business accounting clouds to online education courses and distance education, from virtual medical consultations to emergency contact points, from the latest app developments for farming ventures and simple tools of communication, it’s all happening online.

“Internet access is no longer an ‘option’ – it’s an essential part of everyday life.” (Internet access was declared a basic human right by United Nations in 2011.)

The BIRRR survey reflects also community concerns about accommodating the growth of data use.

“People are clearly worried that as more and more activities become data hungry, current and proposed plans will be unable to handle the extra load. We already know data use growth is a continuing upward trend: The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports the average broadband downloads grew more than 33 per cent from December 2013 to December 2014.”

This same ABS report showed that, on average, each Australian household has eight Internet connected devices – already many bush connections cannot support that load, and there is increasing concern that data limits announced for SkyMuster by nbn will simply not be sufficient into the future.

“Currently internet connectivity does not meet the educational, business, health & welfare needs of regional Australians. Peak Data of 75GB on NBN satellite will not future proof Australia’s data needs. Nor will it end the #datadrought. The Long Term Satellite is not a long term solution for rural, regional and remote users of the internet. “

Another major ‘sticking point’ are off-peak periods to be enforced via Skymuster.

“With much of the data available on plans currently being offered to customers looking to use SkyMuster only accessible between 1am and 7am, it is simply not ‘user friendly’,” Mrs Sparrow said.

“This survey illustrates clearly that regional Australians are frustrated with their current set-ups and not confident about long-term ‘fixes’ such as the Skymuster satellite (LTSS).”

Full survey findings here: 2016 BIRRR SURVEY RESULTS
For further information:

Following: illustrations from the 2016 BIRRR survey report

  data survey map

Respondents came from right around Australia.

meeting needs image

Overwhelmingly, current services do not meet needs.

mobile download upload speeds

sat upload download speeds

cost to access mobile service

nbn addressing issues

Among the many hurdles – registering to find out nbn availability!

birrr preferred info

Figure 24: Reinforcing the need for an independent telecommunications advisory body to help guide consumers through the bush broadband ‘jungle of options and answers’.

A very special thanks to Rachel Hay, PhD Student & Sessional Lecturer, James Cook University, Townsville, for compiling and analysing survey data for this report.

BIRRR survey SAYS…


Link to survey – 2017 Regional Internet Access Survey Results


Announcing the release of the 2016 SURVEY RESULTS for REGIONAL INTERNET ACCESS!!!

survey image


Please use the following links to download the PDF’s of the results document (52 pages/1.9MB) and our media release (4 pages/1MB)

2016 Regional Internet Access Survey Results





Apple IOS – Update Sept 16 2015 ( idevices)

Apple released iOS-9, a major operating system upgrade, on Sept 16th.

The good news is that the iOS 9 update is smaller than usual, at 1.3GB, the bad news is that there is a lot of other data usage that comes with the update, data demand that will multiply if you have many Apple devices.

The heavy, data demand includes: updating your computer’s iTunes; backing up your devices; updating the operating system;  reinstallation of your apps; and, the updating of your apps to be iOS-9 compatible.

In preparation to the update, do the following:

  1. Plan your data use: Prevent auto-updating on all your devices.
    1. Go to >Settings >iTunes & App Store >AUTOMATIC DOWNLOADS
    2. toggle-OFF both ‘Apps‘ and ‘Updates‘.
  2. Make space: Review your apps, photos and videos and uninstall unused items. It will be a tough task for many 8/16 GB iPhone or iPad users to free up enough space. Here’s how.
  3. Get iTunes ready: Install the latest version of iTunes on your computer. Here’s how.
  4. Update Apps. Use iTunes as download-central for app updates across all your devices. Here’s how.
  5. Sync your device to iTunes. Make sure all your devices are synced across iTunes. Here’s how.
  6. Backup your devices. Backup to iTunes (not iCloud) if you are data challenged. Here’s how.

Update iOS update

Once Apple releases the iOS 9 update, you will see a pop-up on your iOS device notifying you that a software update is available. It is recommended that you wait a couple days after the launch to update. There’s always a chance complications will surface. If you’re not the type who wants to spend time troubleshooting issues, it’s best to wait a few days after release to update.

You can download directly through your device but doing this wirelessly will take longer and may exhaust your mobile data.  A better suggestion is to update through your computer, using iTunes.

  1. Plug in the device charger, so you won’t run out of battery and lose the download.
  2. Connect your device to your computer and update via iTunes. Here’s how.
  3. After the update, review that your apps are all up-to-date by repeating steps 4 and 5 above.

Prepared for BIRRR on Sept 15, 2015

WINDOWS 8 and 10 updates

Many people have been finding that Windows 10 has been a bandwidth hog, and this is due to Microsoft new forced updates policy, but it dosent mean there isn’t a way around this. Windows 8 is also guilty. These simple steps will help you to reduce the amount of data windows uses.

WINDOWS 8:windows 8

  1. Navigate to the signal icon on the task bar.

windows 8 2

2. Click it to bring up the list of networks and find the one you are currently connected to.

3. Right click and select set as metered network:


Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

Microsoft is currently offering the operating system for free for a limited time to Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 users – until 29 July 2016.

The free upgrade will not be available for those using Windows XP and Vista, but there are still upgrade options available.

No one is forcing you to update to Windows 10. There are plenty of happy people with computers that “just work” running Windows XP or Windows Vista. Microsoft, however, no longer issues security updates and patches for Windows XP. This means that your PC is more vulnerable to malware. Windows Vista will no longer be receiving these patches in April of 2017. Windows XP support no longer operates. If you are running XP and having issues this is probably the cause and now is the time to upgrade.

You can do an upgrade for XP and Windows but it will cost you to do so. Windows is offering a box version for sale to XP and Vista users.

Remember you have until July 2016 to do the free upgrade and it would be a good idea to wait until a few more bugs are sorted from the upgrade before proceeding if you want to limit the amount of data that you have to use.

If you are short on data and want to install Windows 10 you don’t necessarily have to do it via the Windows Update and use your data allowance. You can download a file (3GB) to a USB stick at, and the USB will work like an installation disk (to start, click on the ‘setup’ file on the USB).
Maybe if you are able to get to a faster internet connection somewhere, e.g. a library in town, you can download it there. You can also share the USB stick with others, it will work on multiple PCs with authorised copies of Windows 7 and 8.

What if I do not want to update to Windows 10? 

Again, no one is forcing you but Windows will no longer be issuing security updates and patches. This makes your computer vulnerable to malware and makes your computer unstable.

If you want to stop the update to Windows 10 until you have the data available :

How To Change Windows Update Settings in Windows 7

  1. Click on the Start button, followed by Control Panel.
  2. Click on the System and Security link.Note: If you’re viewing Control Panel by Category, you’ll see this link. If you use the Large icons or Small icons view, just choose Windows Update and then skip to Step 4 below.
  3. In the System and Security window, click on Windows Update which is one of the bigger links and located about mid-way down the list.
  4. With Windows Update now open, click the Change settings link on the left.This will open a window with the heading Choose how Windows can install updates.
  5. The settings on this page give you a fair amount of control regarding how Windows 7 will receive and install updates from Microsoft.

What about the major problem everyone had with Windows 10?

Like everyone else on the BIRRR you probably saw the horror stories about the continuous rebooting and downloading that happened with the initial Windows 10 upgrade.  This was caused by an update KB 3081424. 

Windows released an update – KB3081436 – and this has reportedly fixed the rebooting issue.

So if you were one of the early updaters and you stopped the process because of the rebooting you should be right to re install.

If you have not done so already follow this link , to reserve a copy and get the download

If the update does not work automatically then you may want to remove KB  30081424

Press start button, scroll to control panel, opening the Control Panel, clicking on ‘View installed updates’, selecting ‘KB3081424’, clicking uninstall in the toolbar and restarting the computer.

If this is all too much and you want to go back to your previous operating system (OS) then this is how you can uninstall the Windows 10 update until the bugs are fixed. REMEMBER TO DO A BACK UP FIRST

How to uninstall a windows 10 update

Automatic Updating 

The other issue with Windows 10 is that they have decided we will not have a choice when and how we receive updates. This is a problem for those of us on limited downloads.

There is no way to turn off automatic downloads in Windows 10 but users can turn their network connection to a metered connection. When you set a connection as metered, you’re telling Windows it’s a connection with restricted data — such as a mobile data connection. Windows won’t upload updates on a metered connection — it won’t even automatically download Windows updates.

To set your current Wi-FI network as a metered connection, open the Settings app and navigate to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Advanced options. Activate the toggle under “Set as metered connection.” The current Wi-Fi network will become a metered connection.

In Windows 10 open up the list of networks as in Windows 8, then click Network settings at the Bottom to open up the following window:
windows 10 image

This will allow users to choose when they do updates depending on the amount of data they have or access to free Wi-Fi.  This means users will have to regularly change the setting back to un metered at which point the upgrades will automatically download.

The updates are not going to be as large as the initial upgrade and they do keep your operating system running as efficiently and safely as possible. There is also the issue that if you switch to metered and forget to upgrade for a while, you will have to do a large upgrade when you do remember.

Note  – Ethernet network connections can’t be set to metered. If your internet connects to your computer with a cable that looks like this, then you are using an ethernet connection which cannot be set to metered.

ethernet cable
Ethernet Cable

If you are connecting by a different type of cable/connection (for example, so types of mobile broadband modems) then it may or may not be possible to set it as metered, depending on your modem.

If you are connecting using WiFi, then you can set as metered.



Additional information

What’s a metered Internet connection?

Internet service providers can charge by the amount of data used (the amount of data sent and received by your PC). That’s called a metered Internet connection. These plans often have a data limit, and if you exceed the limit you might have to pay extra. In some cases, you aren’t charged extra but your connection speed becomes slower until the billing cycle ends.

If you have a metered Internet connection, setting your network connection to metered in Windows can help you reduce the amount of data you send and receive

What are the recommended settings?

It depends on whether your Internet service provider charges you by the amount of data you use. Here are some general guidelines:

  • WiFi networks—Windows sets WiFi networks to non-metered by default. But if your Internet service provider charges you by the amount of data you use, setting your network connection to metered can help you limit your data usage.
  • Mobile broadband networks—Windows sets mobile broadband networks to metered by default. But if your mobile broadband service is actually unlimited, then you might want to change the network setting to non-metered.

If you’re not sure what to do, keep an eye on your data usage. If you find that you’re being billed for extra data usage, setting your network connection to metered can help you manage this.

You may also need to ensure that your Windows 10 Computer is not using data to update other computers nearby.  It is useful to read this article, which shows how to turn it off.

How to disable P2P updates in Windows 10

Compiled by BIRRR and correct to the best of our knowledge as at October 1, 2015

NBN ‘FAIR USE’ policy & actions


Screenshot of section of NBN Co’s ‘Fair Use Policy’ from their website*:

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.18.42 am

Until earlier this year, Interim Satellite Service (ISS) customers were offered up to 60GB/month data plans by Retail Service Providers (RSP).

NBN Co deemed these plans to be excessive, and in February this year (2015) NBN Co moved to enforce its fair use policy for customers on the Interim Satellite Service.

As reported by^:

A briefing document for retail service providers (dated 30 January) indicates that starting in December 2015, NBN Co moved to have RSPs that sold ISS access to restrict individual customers’ usage to “no more than 50GB download per 4 week rolling aggregate of usage, measured weekly (the Threshold download limit) so as to facilitate RSP compliance with the ISS Fair Use Policy.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.39.59 am

“If RSPs continue to not comply with the Fair Use Policy, then NBN Co will exercise its rights under the WBA [Wholesale Broadband Agreement] by limiting identified services (users exceeding Threshold download limit) from February 2015 if this becomes necessary,” the document states.


Since this time, the ‘shaping’ of end users has increased dramatically, with NBN stepping in (on occasion) where there ISS providers have failed to ‘respond’.

A new ‘rolling four week’ measure of the end customer’s data usage has also been enforced (on top of the ‘billing month’ generally enforced by the ISS provider). Now ANY four week period can be used as a measure by NBN to locate ‘excessive data use’.

This new rule for ISS customers seems to have come into play around April.

As a matter of interest (and comparison), the NBN Co itself published figures from October 2014 showing the average data use of Australians to be 58GB/ month with those on NBN using an average of 67GB/month.<

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.10.02 pm


BIRRR are aware of the inequalities of this policy, and will continue working with NBN to address them.

*NBN Fair Use Document: Has since been removed from nbn website (1/12/16)

NBN ‘FAIR USE’ POLICY ACTIONS prepared by Amanda Salisbury for BIRRR updated 1/12/2016

Welcome to the BIRRR site

Welcome to BIRRR!

Hello and welcome!  This is the official site for BIRRR – resource page for the Facebook Group ‘Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia’.

Our group has grown dramatically recently, and as we gather information across the often-confusing landscape of ‘bush broadband’ throughout Australia, we have created this ‘one-stop shop’ for relevant information and links.

Please bear in mind that the admins of both this site and the Group are volunteers – we do our best to make sure info is up-to-date but it’s best to contact us via the FB Group page.  Thanks for visiting and here is hoping we achieve vastly improved access to the internet for all Australians, regardless of where we live in this wide brown land.

Cheers! The BIRRR teamData Drought2 a