ACCC calls for NBN speed monitoring volunteers

Around 2,000 volunteer fixed-line NBN users will have their speeds monitored this year, ahead of an additional 2,000 premises next year.
Written by Corinne Reichert on

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has put out the call for voluntary participants in its National Broadband Network (NBN) fixed-line speed monitoring program.

Under the program, the ACCC will install hardware on home connections across 4,000 premises, starting with 2,000 in the first year, that are connected to fixed-line NBN services -- including fibre to the node, fibre to the basement, fibre to the premises, and hybrid fibre-coaxial.

The devices will collect real-time data on speeds being experienced by users throughout the day to determine average fixed-line NBN speeds at various times.

The program will also enable the ACCC to determine which provider is responsible for any speed or congestion issues -- NBN's wholesale network, or retailers that have not bought sufficient capacity.

"The ACCC is currently investigating examples of where ISPs may have misled consumers in relation to their broadband speeds and other issues related to consumer guarantees that may raise concerns under the Australian Consumer Law," ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.

"The volunteers will be helping to produce accurate, transparent, and comparable information about the quality and reliability of the fixed-line broadband services available in their area. This will lead to more competition and better value for money for broadband services."

NBN said it welcomes the program as a way of providing clearer information for consumers.

"NBN supports the ACCC broadband speeds program and any efforts to help consumers better understand broadband speeds and performance," an NBN spokesperson told ZDNet on Sunday.

The government had announced in April that it would be providing AU$7 million in funding over the next four years from July 1 to ensure that the ACCC is able to implement the NBN speed-monitoring program.

"Performance information is a key factor for consumers when purchasing plans from a retail service provider. The government acknowledges that this will be vital as demand for data grows," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said at the time, despite previously saying that NBN was being unfairly criticised over misleading speed claims being made by RSPs.

"By collecting and publishing information about the speed and reliability of broadband packages, consumers will be better placed to choose a plan that is right for them. It will also encourage retailers to compete on the quality of their broadband plans."

The ACCC in February published a set of guidelines for ISPs to follow when advertising their broadband speeds in order to improve accuracy and prevent misleading claims, with Fifield at the time telling a party meeting that complaints about RSPs promising unrealistic speeds across the NBN should be "disaggregated" from complaints being made about NBN itself.

The ACCC had originally suggested monitoring broadband services back in 2015 in an effort to encourage competition between fixed-line broadband RSPs and to aid consumers in making more informed purchasing decisions, with a discussion paper released in July 2016.

In its Broadband Speed Claims: Consultation outcomes report, the ACCC said the limited information currently provided to consumers is "raising consumer search costs, inhibiting competition, and feeding into an increasing level of consumer complaint".

The report said ISPs should provide accurate information on speeds consumers will likely see during peak times, without referencing wholesale network speeds or theoretical speeds and disclosing any mitigating factors. It also said information should be comparable between ISPs and diagnostic systems installed to resolve any issues.

During consultation last year, Australia's ISPs spoke out against the proposal, saying many of the factors affecting speed fluctuation are out of their control -- for instance, loss in quality caused by the type of technology being used, backhaul capacity, end-user hardware, Wi-Fi or cabling within a consumer's premises, and the performance of remote servers.


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