Hot Off the Press Release: Spark Moves to Lower Streaming Resolution

Spark is in talks with the likes of Netflix and Apple TV+ to cap streaming bitrates to help ease traffic congestion during the latest lockdown, the telco revealed tonight.

At the same time it’s lifting data caps for Auckland users on fixed and wireless broadband plans.

Chorus, meanwhile, reports the increased traffic due to a spike in Auckland usage “is comfortably within available headroom and there is no congestion on the Chorus network”.

Go figure.

Here’s Spark’s media release:

Spark lifts broadband data caps to support Aucklanders as they re-enter lockdown         

Spark today confirmed it will be waiving data overage charges for all customers who are on data-capped fixed and wireless broadband plans and are at risk of losing access if they can’t afford to go over their existing data limits.

This applies to both consumer and small and medium business customers and will commence from Monday 17 August and continue until Auckland moves down from Alert Level 3.

When New Zealand first entered lockdown in March, Spark moved quickly to lift broadband data caps, providing customers across the country with over 7,200 terabytes of free data over 100 days.

Spark CEO Jolie Hodson said: “We know our customers need to stay connected during lockdown and we will lean in and do our part to make that happen as Auckland moves into an additional 12 days at Alert Level 3.”

Spark customers are reminded that while network traffic will be monitored to ensure fair use and an optimal experience for all customers, there may be congestion during peak periods. Spark is currently speaking to large online content providers to encourage a return to the bitrate capping policies that were put in place during New Zealand’s first lockdown, which helped internet service providers manage peak network loads by reducing the resolution of streamed content.

For customers experiencing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19, Spark introduced a new Hardship Policy in July that provides several options to help them stay connected wherever possible. Depending on the customer’s circumstances, these can include restricting services to avoid extra charges, implementing a short-term payment extension, or applying to put an Extended Credit Arrangement in place over a longer period to keep monthly payments lower and more manageable.

Spark also continues to roll out its not-for-profit broadband service, Skinny Jump, at pace, connecting an additional 4,500 homes since the first Covid-19 lockdown. Skinny Jump is provided through a network of community partners for people who cannot currently afford a broadband connection, and costs just $5 for 30GB of data (up to 150GB for $25 a month).

Hodson continued: “We believe the combination of the Government’s support packages, the removal of broadband data overage charges, our wide range of broadband plans that cater to different budgets, and our new Hardship Policy, will provide our customers with as much support as possible during these challenging times.”

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