More than 7400 households have registered to participate in a broadband performance monitoring scheme run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The ACCC in June put out a call for volunteers, with the consumer watchdog seeking 4000 households for the program.
“Australians are passionate about this issue,” ACCC chairperson Rod Sims said today in remarks prepared for a CEDA WA event in Perth.
“We believe the fact that speed performance will be public is already encouraging providers to lift their game and will ensure the market operates effectively by encouraging retailers to compete on performance, as well as price, by provisioning sufficient capacity to meet their consumers’ expectations.”
“The monitoring scheme will highlight, and customers will notice, whether companies are providing a quality service that delivers what they have been promised,” Sims said.
“This will make it easier for consumers to shop around and check that they are receiving what they pay for.
The ACCC chair said that the program will help established whether complaints about poor performance on the National Broadband Network are the fault of NBN and its infrastructure or are caused by retail service providers (RSPs) not provisioning sufficient capacity to service their customers.
“It will also provide ISPs with independent performance information to draw on,” Sims said.
The $7 million, four-year program will focus primarily on NBN services. Earlier this year the ACCC said it would seek to monitor services from eight to 10 RSPs in the first year of the program, with that number growing to 11-13.
Metrics the ACCC is interested in include download and upload speeds, webpage load time, latency, packet loss, jitter (via VOIP emulation) and DNS response times.
Tests will be automatically run by hardware probes installed in households.
Sims said that in the telecommunications market there is a “credibility gap between what consumers are told they’re getting and what they actually get”.
In addition to the broadband monitoring scheme, the ACCC has pushed for changes to marketing by RSPs to give consumers a better picture of the performance they can expect from NBN services.
The ACCC earlier this week released detailed guidance about advertising NBN services for RSPs. That includes RSPs shifting away from marketing the theoretical maximum speeds achievable to indicating the typical minimum speeds that are achievable during peak usage periods.
“The move to the NBN and consumers now having a choice of speeds on their broadband plans mean retailers need to dramatically re-think their marketing practices and ensure consumers are presented with the information they need,” Sims said.
“There has never been a more important time to make confident and informed broadband purchasing decisions. The information consumers are currently provided with does not make this possible.”
“This is a very unusual step,” the ACCC chairperson said. “But with the forced migration to the NBN we are facing unusual times.”
“Too often we see speeds presented only in terms of the maximum speed of the access link that the retailer is purchasing, and not what the retailer itself can deliver over its end-to-end network during the busy periods, which is paramount since this is when most consumers are online,” Sims said.
“We want to see consumers presented with information based on the realistic speeds they can expect to experience during busy evening periods – not just best-case scenarios.”
Broadband is an ACCC compliance and enforcement priority this year and the organisation expects “to have taken enforcement action before the year is out,” Sims said.
Sims has previously indicated he anticipates launching legal action against RSPs this year.