'Fast' Doesn't Tell Us How Fast Your Broadband Is, Telcos

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The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) says that information about broadband speeds isn't being communicated to consumers in a clear and upfront way.

ACCAN's submission to the ACCC's consultation on broadband speed highlights that information provided to consumers about broadband speeds is often confusing and can also be misleading as claimed speeds frequently don't match reality.

"Broadband speed claims are often confusing or misleading for consumers with the use of terms like 'speeds up to'," said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. "We fully support the ACCC's investigation into this issue and urge the Commission to implement guidelines and other measures that will result in clearer information for consumers."

Greater information around broadband performance is needed to help consumers, the ACCAN says, offering some recommendations.

Descriptions such as "fast", or "up to", do not provide the tools for consumers to compare actual likely performance and match their usage needs in a rational way — this needs to be replaced with an accurate system for comparison, ACCAN says. Information on how to diagnose faults more accurately, and identify whether a fault is systemic to the home, access or upstream network and what to do when the service does not meet expected standards have also been highlighted in the ACCC submission.

One of the issues that ACCAN identified is that the term "speed" is simplistically used to describe the performance of a service. A number of issues that consumers encounter are often described as "speed" issues, the solution to which is often presented as faster speeds. This approach misses other factors that affect service performance.

"ACCAN asserts that consumers should have access to information which helps them compare services and describes how the service will work for them," said Ms Corbin. "The proposed Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting Program, which aims to test service performance, would also help to support and verify the speed claims made by RSPs. Information on any prioritisation over the network that occurs should also be presented to consumers."

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