NBN connection process adversely impacting 40 percent of businesses: ACMA

An ACMA survey has found only 22 percent of business respondents connected to the NBN without issue.

Simply getting onto the NBN, let alone making use of it, is impacting the functioning of 43 percent of businesses, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) survey [PDF] released on Tuesday.

Only 22 percent of businesses said the NBN connection process was smooth, while businesses said the most common complaint was "ongoing service issues", ACMA said.

Conducted between April and May 2016, ACMA surveyed 900 Australian residents and 304 businesses by telephone in areas where an NBN fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) connection was available. Of that number, 500 residential respondents were connected, and 154 businesses were on the National Broadband Network.

The survey skewed heavily to Australians aged over 55, thanks to the research company finding respondents via the White Pages.

In contrast, 44 percent of residential respondents rated the connection process as an 8 out of 10 or higher, while those who self-identified as having a good understanding of the NBN were more pleased. However, ACMA said many respondents did not know who to call if there was an issue getting on the network.

"Findings from the qualitative research suggest there is limited understanding of the specific steps involved in the migration process and some confusion at this stage as to who will be providing different aspects of the installation service," the report said.

ACMA said some residential customers found their broadband speeds once on FttP did not match their expectations.

"The qualitative research showed that residents were unaware that simply switching to the NBN did not guarantee high speed internet (that is, that internet speed would depend on the purchased plan), while a number of businesses complained that the service they received from providers was slow and unresponsive," ACMA said.

"Frustration was also expressed with services dropping out and other internet connection problems."

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(Image: ACMA)

The survey found more than half of those consumers on the NBN did not shop around for a retail service provider (RSP).

"The qualitative research revealed that residents were happy to stay with their provider for phone and internet services as it was easier," the report said. "They also assumed that it would make the process smoother and believed they would receive benefits associated with their loyalty (for example, a new modem for free/same data and download speeds)."

"Fewer than half of connected residents claimed to have compared offers for either their fixed-internet (46 percent) or landline phone (30 percent)."

ACMA said both residential and business respondents found it difficult to compare pricing from ISPs.

The latest Wholesale Market Indicators Report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission showed that Telstra is replicating its dominance in the pure copper world into the sometimes-copper NBN, and is closing in on 50 percent of all users on fibre-based technologies.

The largest tiers of users on the network are the two slowest ones available: 25/5Mbps makes up 54 percent of the network, while 30 percent of the network is opting for 12/1Mbps plans.

In response, NBN said it was working with RSPs to improve its service levels.

"Since the research was conducted, NBN has made considerable changes to its consumer-facing communications including simplifying language, providing clearer steps on the connection and disconnection process, and using bespoke communications for vulnerable and elderly end users," the company said in a statement.

"The report also demonstrates the need for further education on speed choices and prices available over the NBN network, and to explain factors that influence internet service experience -- NBN and RSPs continue to work on this education piece."

Updated at 5.34pm AEDT, December 20, 2016: Added comment from NBN.

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