The Department of Communications is planning to update the MyBroadband website to add the ability to directly gather data about the speed and quality of Australian broadband services.
Appearing yesterday before a Sydney hearing of the Senate inquiry into the National Broadband Network, department spokespeople revealed that a speedtest that would measure upload and download speeds would be added to the site. In addition, latency, jitter and packet loss data would be gathered, Department of Communications assistant secretary Joanna Grainger said.
MyBroadband has been a target for criticism since it was launched in February.
At a Tuesday hearing of the Senate inquiry in Terrigal, NSW, the site's data was described as a "jest at people's cafes and pubs because it is not authoritative". Several examples of alleged inaccuracies on the site were cited at the Terrigal hearing. However, according to the department's representatives at the Sydney hearing MyBroadband would return accurate results for the specific examples given.
At the Sydney hearing reference was also made to the #MyBroadbandvReality submission to the Senate inquiry which was based on data gathered from more than 800 people, who compared the speed and quality of their broadband connection results to the figures given on MyBroadband. The overwhelming majority of participants in the study achieved speeds slower than the MyBroadband estimate.
That submission "puts forward two potential biases in their survey," Grainger said. "One, of course, is the self-selection bias, in that people who are particularly interested in broadband and also agree with their broadband speeds are responding.
"The other issue is that you can have the capacity of your line to get a very fast speed, but if you have chosen an entry-level broadband plan for price reasons, your speed is going to be throttled on that line. That is obviously another reason why potentially the broadband plan that you have purchased is limited and so the technology is not fully there."
According to the Department of Communications, the MyBroadband site's data is sourced from "several different telecommunications carriers", the Telstra Wholesale website and "Over 20,000 real world observations on ADSL usage and the factors that affect ADSL usage".
"Certainly we are very aware that the robustness of the MyBroadband data is very important because, obviously, the ultimate aim was to provide NBN Co information to assist it to prioritise under-served areas, so accuracy was something we strove for," Grainger said.
"I do not think I could agree that the MyBroadband website is totally inaccurate."
"The premise that we have produced a modelled outcome that is the median for hundreds of premises on average is inherently frustrating to people who say, 'That's not what I get at my particular address,'" department secretary Drew Clarke said.
"We accept that. That is self-evidently true. We believe it is an accurate portrayal of the information available to us today to present the status of broadband across the country. As that evolves, we will improve it."