Telecommunications industry body Communications Alliance has put together an education package designed to help consumers understand Australia’s increasingly complex broadband landscape.
The information package, available online was developed with input from the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
The material offers details on the types of home fixed and wireless broadband connections available in Australia, including the range of technologies available on the National Broadband Network.
In addition to discussing what households should consider before signing up with a particular service provider, it outlines some of the factors that can affect broadband performance.
In 2015-16, the TIO reported it had seen a drop in complaints relating to mobile services but a rise in complaints relating to Internet services including NBN connections (although the growth in NBN-related complaints was outstripped by the rollout of the network).
NBN CEO Bill Morrow told a February Senate Estimates hearing that “many people do not realise the government-owned NBN is only a small fraction of the end-to-end network that connects an end user to their Internet content or the other end of the telephone.”
This can result in confusion over who is responsible for a poor end user experience, the CEO said.
“For example, in some cases, NBN is just the last 10 to 15 kilometres, but the retailers have a far greater stretch of network that must be invested in and maintained to support the user experience,” Morrow told the hearing
“Failure to do so means a reduction in speed, packet dropouts or a call not going through. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the process of having the service turned on or the speed observed even the reliability of the end-to-end network is the work of both the chosen retailer and NBN.”
The new Communications Alliance education package outlines some of the interactions between NBN’s infrastructure and that of individual service providers and wholesalers.
The CEO of Communications Alliance, John Stanton, said that recently there had been a significant amount of commentary on broadband performance.
“That’s not surprising, given the importance that Australians place on broadband’s role in facilitating their daily personal and business interactions,” the CEO said in a statement.
“But many consumers have found it difficult to understand the differences between various broadband technologies, what factors can influence the performance of each, what they should look for when choosing a broadband service, what they can do to improve the performance of their service and what to do if something goes wrong,
“Some factors are outside the consumers’ control, but the information released today is designed to give many consumers a broader understanding of how the technology works and the knowledge to positively influence the factors that they can control.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently released guidelines for Internet service providers intended to try to prevent them from making potentially misleading claims about broadband performance.
For example, the ACCC said that ISPs should not advertise the theoretical speed of a broadband technology without reference to typical busy period speeds an end user can expect to encounter.
The ACCC is also establishing a broadband speed monitoring program, which will gather data on the performance of connections across different ISPs.