Aussie Complaints Soar Over Flaky Broadband

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Sluggish speeds, instability and connection delays are on the rise as complaints to Australia's telco watchdog leap more than 25 per cent.

There's been a record number of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman regarding internet connections, according to finder.com.au. After reviewing three years' worth of complaints to the watchdog it found:

  • Australians made 10,668 new complaints about internet services to the TIO between January and March 2016 - a record number since January 2013,
  • This represents a 27 per cent Year-on-Year increase in internet related complaints regarding service providers with more than 25 complaints. Based on 12.9 million internet subscribers nationally, that equates to one in every 1,209 internet users escalating complaints to the Ombudsman,
  • Consumers are forking out $640,080 per month for broadband which is on the blink, considering the average broadband plan costs around $60 per month

When you break down the numbers, complaints included slow data speeds (2,159 complaints), unusable service (2,125) and connection delays (2,079).

The big three telcos – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – have the largest number of subscribers so it's not surprising that they account for 75 per cent of complaints. Fixed-line broadband complaints against Telstra and Vodafone have remained stable, while complaints about Optus have risen. Of the smaller telcos, fixed-line complaints have risen against TPG, iiNet and Dodo, while others have remained flat or dropped slightly.

While it's tempting to lay all the blame with the retail Internet Service Providers who send you the bill each month, it's hard to interpret these figures without knowing what kind of broadband connection is running the complainant's door – DSL copper phone line, HFC pay TV cable, fibre to the node, fibre to the premises, fixed-wireless or satellite. It's a bit like claiming that Holdens go faster than Fords without knowing who is driving on dirt tracks and who is speeding down the freeway.

If you're stuck on a slow and unreliable DSL copper connection, far from your exchange, then the condition of the copper line has a much greater impact on the quality of your broadband than your choice of retailer.

Telstra has let the copper network fall into disrepair, but the increasing number of complaints are made against the retail ISPs rather than the network owner. To stick with the motoring metaphors, it's like complaining to Holden that there are potholes in your street.

That's not to say that retailers are completely blameless, the quality of your broadband connection is also influenced by how much bandwidth they buy from the network operator and how many homes they force to share the same backend link. Budget telcos tend to skimp on this. Of course any telco can also screw up your bill, which is never fun.

Are you happy with your home broadband service? What's the problem, is it getting worse and where does the blame lie?

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.

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