The ACCC Will Finally Police NBN Broadband Speeds

After far too long a wait, Australia will finally have a regulator to officially monitor the country's mediocre internet connection speeds. Around 4000 premises will be part of the ACCC-run monitoring system, which will track performance at peak and off-peak times on fixed-line NBN connections.

The Federal Government has announced $7 million in funding for the broadband monitoring roll-out, and the program will run for the next four years. It will focus on fixed NBN connections — like fibre to the premises, fibre to the node and fibre to the basement — and aims to provide an accurate measure of real-world speeds, rather than customers having to rely on the "up to" promises of retail service providers and the government-run company responsible for the rollout.

The ACCC says the system will help customers in three ways — it'll determine whether NBN design or ISPs' bandwidth purchases are to blame for any slowdown, and will give an independent point of reference between retail providers for customers to decide between. ACCC chairman Rod Sims" "The program will also allow the ACCC to determine if issues are being caused by the performance of the NBN, or by internet service providers (ISPs) not buying sufficient capacity. It will also provide ISPs with independent performance information from which to draw when making speed claims."

The ACCC ran a pilot broadband monitoring program in 2015, and will also be responsible for organising this upcoming system through tender to an independent contractor. It will install 4000 devices in broadband customers' homes and businesses across Australia, with a focus on NBN services but also on NBN-like connections from private competitors like Nextgen Networks.

The Turnbull Liberal government's minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said in a statement that end users need reliable performance data on their internet services now, more than ever: "Performance information is a key factor for consumers when purchasing plans from a retail service provider. The Government acknowledges that this will be vital as demand for data grows."

Some retail providers are confident their network decisions will be vindicated by the extra data. Here's Fiber Corp CIO Joel Clarke: "The fundamental reason fuelling the poor levels of service across the current National Broadband Network (NBN) is the commercial model that was designed in collaboration with the major telco’s to reduce competition and provide an unfair playing field to smaller ISPs by implementing a network design with an excessive amount of points of interconnect (POI) and high cost of connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC). This model favours networks operators with a high number of subscribers and encourages over-contention (slower speeds)."

Fiber Corp has addressed both key issues by guaranteeing contention ratios per service and reducing network access & connectivity costs.

If you want to sign up to have your broadband monitored — and have some data to justify your complaints — the ACCC will have sign-up information on its website soon. [ACCC]

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