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Telstra CEO wants NBN to tell telcos copper line speeds to prevent misleading sales

The root cause of customers being sold plans at speeds their connections will never reach lays at the feet of NBN, Telstra CEO Andy Penn said.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

Earlier this week, Telstra was among the trio of telcos hauled into Federal Court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over allegations of making misleading NBN FttN speed claims.

The consumer watchdog alleges the trio made false representations to consumers over being able to: Test lines to determine the maximum speed on fibre-to-the-node connections, notify the customer of test results, and offer remedies if a line was performing below the speed the telco sold it as.

The ACCC also alleges that the trio "wrongly accepted payments" from customers for NBN plans when they could not receive promised speeds. It has put the number of impacted customers in the "hundreds of thousands" range.

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday morning, Telstra CEO Andy Penn laid blame for the issue at the feet of NBN Co.

"When you sign up for the NBN you tell us what speed you want. However, when we connect you for the first time, NBN can't tell us what speeds you'll get. Despite this, we still have an obligation to provide you the speed you've chosen," Penn said.

"The root cause is at the beginning. We need NBN to tell us what its network is capable of for customers upfront, before we connect and for regulators to impose on NBN the same obligations we have to meet. That's how we'll get this right for customers once and for all."

Penn said the telco did not deliberately set out to mislead its customers, and apologised for not fixing it sooner.

"When we identified issues, we reported them to the ACCC and ACMA and started a process to make it right by customers impacted. And let me be clear: It's our accountability to fix it and we should have been on top of it sooner. That responsibility is with us and for that I'm sorry," he said.

On Monday, TPG said it would be "making things right" with its impacted customers who never received a maximum attainable speed notice.

"For the oversight, we are sorry," a company spokesperson said at the time.

"There were two key contributing factors to this issue. The first was failure by NBN Co to provide timely and accurate speed information to TPG Internet. The second was anomalies in TPG Internet's legacy processes in place since 2017, and these have been fixed post-merger."

TPG added its intent was not to avoid obligations, and of its two million customers, "only a small percentage" did not receive information.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Aussie Broadband announced it signed a five-year deal with Telstra Wholesale to hook up 42 NBN points of interconnect (POI) not covered by its existing fibre footprint.

Aussie Broadband said it would save AU$1 million this fiscal year, and AU$15 million per year thereafter.

"The deal comprises both inter-capital and NBN POI capacity through the use of dark fibre and wavelengths and allows for significant capacity increases across the network," the company said.

"Upgrades will be rolled out over the next nine months and are expected to be completed by April 2022."

"All 121 NBN Points of Interconnect, through both Aussie Broadband's own fibre and through Telstra Wholesale fibre, will be upgraded from current 10G or 20G connections to 100G minimum capacity at each POI."

Each POI would be connected to two separate capital city data centres, with Aussie Broadband adding it would be upgrading its inter-capital links with 400G, and have 100G paths to other capital cities.

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