Since the distinct sounds of dial-up were first heard in Australian homes, reliability and speed have been the bane of internet in Australia. The NBN promises to change all that. But are their claims honest? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is about to find out by calling on thousands of Australians to volunteer to be part of a new program that will measure and compare broadband speeds across the country.
The program will install hardware-based devices in around 4000 households over four years, beginning with around 2000 volunteers in the first year. These devices will perform remote testing to determine typical speeds on fixed-line NBN services at various times throughout the day.
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.
The broadband speeds program will also help determine if issues relating to poor speeds at peak times are being caused by the performance of the NBN or the network management decisions made by the internet service providers (ISP), such as not buying sufficient capacity to meet demand.
Related to this are ACCC investigations 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.
The ACCC also wants retailers to move away from unhelpful and easily misconstrued claims like ‘up to’, ‘boost’ and ‘fast’, and from advertising and or providing information about theoretical maximum speeds that are based on wholesale inputs that aren’t possible at the retail level.
As thousands of new NBN plans hit the market, it is crucial that consumers have access to information about the speed and quality of the broadband services they are paying for. The broadband performance monitoring program is a critical first step.
Nominations for the monitoring program close on 31 July 2017. The ACCC will finalise the volunteer panel around September 2017 in readiness to commence testing and provide its first performance reports by the end of the year. For more information, including how you can volunteer, visit www.accc.gov.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delia Rickard is Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission