NBN speed-monitoring boxes deployed as report due March

ACCC chair Rod Sims has said the speed-monitoring boxes have just been deployed to the first lot of volunteer households, with the initial report due to be published next month.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The first speed-monitoring report on fixed-line National Broadband Network (NBN) services is due to be published next month, despite the boxes only just having been provided to the homes taking part, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims has said.

Speaking to ABC Radio National Breakfast on Friday morning, Sims said the speed monitoring program is part of a three-prong approach the regulator is taking to improve NBN customer experience.

"We'll be putting out a monitoring report by the end of March where everybody can see which providers are providing what speeds, and so that will firstly allow consumers to see what's going on," Sims explained.

"We have just got all the boxes for the first run of people."

The looming speed-monitoring program has also put sufficient pressure on retail service providers (RSPs) to prepare for public reports, Sims added, which he said partially caused the increase in connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) capacity purchasing announced by the ACCC on Thursday.

According to Sims, the two other arms of the ACCC's approach to improving NBN customer service involves hitting telcos with consequences for not providing the speeds customers are paying for, and providing guidance on advertising.

"We've done two things, basically: We've got court-enforceable undertakings from the retail service providers not to sell NBN products at speeds that can't be delivered, so we've fixed that up," he told RN on Friday morning.

"We've also issued guidance which is voluntary, but it's a good indication of how we work proactively that most RSPs -- not all, but most -- have followed that guidance, and that guidance says don't just say 'move to the NBN and you'll get fast speeds', no no; tell people what speeds they'll get, particularly tell them what speeds they'll get between 7 and 11 at night, so make sure that you're being very clear in your advertising.

"And of course once they're clear in their advertising, if they then don't deliver what they've advertised, they've breached the Act. So that's helped a lot as well."

The AU$6.5 million speed-monitoring program will take place across 4,000 premises over the next four years, with SamKnows appointed in December to monitor speeds. The government will be providing AU$7 million in funding over four years from July 1, 2017.

Starting with 2,000 homes in the first year, the results of the speed tests will be reported publicly by the end of Q1 in 2018.

In June, the ACCC had put out the call for voluntary participants in the speed-monitoring program, through which it will install hardware to collect real-time data on speeds being experienced by users throughout the day.

The program will 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 CVC capacity.

At the end of last year, Telstra was forced to compensate around 42,000 NBN customers for not providing them with the speeds advertised in their plans, followed swiftly by Optus and TPG.

Citing concern over rising consumer complaints, the ACCC then announced a public inquiry into NBN's wholesale service standard levels to determine whether regulation, including resolutions for consumers when wholesale standards are not reached, is necessary in order to improve customer experience.

The announcement followed the ACCC publishing its draft Communications Sector Market Study, which said "immediate measures" are needed to address consumer complaints.

The commission's report had pointed to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) research on NBN migration issues, and said it would be proposing to examine NBN's service standards, particularly in regards to "incentives in place along the supply chain".

Also needing investigation is the "allocation of responsibility" for faults between NBN and RSPs, the regulator said, along with whether there are incentives for repairing faults and compensation for consumers.

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