ACMA unveils NBN consumer standards

Under two new standards, RSPs will be required to provide greater information on NBN plans to consumers, as well as access to legacy broadband in cases of migration issues.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has unveiled its new standards to help reduce issues when consumers migrate to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The Consumer Information Standard and Service Continuity Standard will both commence on September 21, with the former requiring retail service providers (RSPs) to provide a key facts sheet to all NBN customers and the latter ensuring consumers have access to a broadband service at all times.

"Telcos need to step up to provide better information to their customers and make sure they are not left without a service during their migration to NBN-based services," ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

Under the Telecommunications (NBN Consumer Information) Industry Standard 2018, RSPs are to fulfil minimum requirements for providing information on data speeds, online usage, technical limitations, medical alarm services, and security alarm services.

"The content of this industry standard deals with information and advice that retail carriage service providers must provide to consumers, to help consumers make informed decisions about NBN services, prior to entering into a contract with the retail carriage service provider for the supply of those services," it says.

The standard also provides for advertising guidelines, the provision of advice to consumers about NBN services, and the requirement to keep records.

The Telecommunications (NBN Continuity of Service) Industry Standard 2018 then attempts to ensure people are not left with no broadband access during the process of migrating to the NBN.

It sets out the requirement to minimise disruption to the supply of telco services to consumers in ready-for-service areas, while mandating that RSPs and NBN must take all reasonable steps to manage migration. It also includes circumstances under which a legacy service must be supplied, and processes and timeframes for reconnecting and supplying legacy and interim services.

"Our research also showed that about 16 percent of households reported being left without their home internet and/or phone service for more than a week when moving to services provided over the NBN," O'Loughlin said.

"Being without a service for a week or more is almost unimaginable to most of us. To help avoid these situations, the ACMA has made a Service Continuity Standard."

Any breaches of the standards will be "immediately and directly enforceable", the ACMA said, including court-enforceable via injunctions and civil penalties reaching AU$250,000.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton welcomed the standards published on Friday, calling them "consumer-friendly and workable".

"In particular, we are pleased that the ACMA has recognised that it is not sensible to go down the path of reconnecting legacy services in circumstances where fibre-to-the-node (FttN) or fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) experience initial connection issues," Stanton said.

"This is because these connections use the same copper infrastructure that previously supported legacy services such as ADSL2 -- making it impossible to restore the old service and fix the new one at the same time."

However, Comms Alliance said it is concerned about the brief implementation deadline.

The ACMA also flagged that it will be announcing "further actions" by the end of next month for line testing by telcos.

"Together, these rules will require telcos to specify the minimum information that telcos must provide to consumers; 'line test' new services to ensure that lines are working and that faults are identified early; reconnect consumers to legacy network services where readily feasible if a consumer is unable to get a working service over the NBN network; comply with minimum standards for handling of consumer complaints; and report data about the complaints they receive to the ACMA so these can be monitored," O'Loughlin said in April.

The ACMA warned three NBN retailers earlier this year for not providing sufficient critical information to consumers on their broadband offerings.

The ACMA had in December published the new consumer protections to be implemented during the migration to NBN services, after finding that connection issues may not be resolved for over 100 days on some technologies.

It had been ordered by the federal government to research NBN migration issues in August, with NBN at the time also creating a dedicated churn team to work through issues as quickly as possible.

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