During last night's Federal Budget, the focus was firmly on the surplus and tax cuts. Tech didn't get a great deal of attention, but there were some interesting nuggets when it came to telecommunications.
Apparently, the handling of telco complaints has been so poor that the Federal Government feels the need to throw millions of dollars at the problem.
We're all familiar with the automated messages that play on loop when you're stuck on call waiting. They tend to alternate between assurances of how important your time is to them, and information regarding where you can submit your query online and thus free up the queue.
The Federal Government has pledged $7.2 million to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) over four years in order to "improve dispute resolution for Australian telecommunications."
To money will be used to benchmark and monitor the performance of the Telecommunucations Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme, as well as provide advice and support.
The TIO itself provides independent dispute resolution for telco complaints across both the phone and internet sectors.
"The changes will increase transparency about complaint handling and help to ensure consumers get the level of service they expect from their provider," said Communications Minister Mitch Fifield in a press release.
Considering some of the findings from ACMA's April 2018 NBN Consumer Experience Review, it's unsurprising to discover that further action is required.
Some of the concerning figures that came out of that review included:
- Only 7 per cent of RSPs supplying broadband services were using the ACCC guidance on speed labels on their websites
- Only 11 per cent of RSPs included information on their sites disclosing typical busy evening speeds
- Only 49 per cent of RSPs had information on their websites to help customers estimate their data usage requirements
- Only 51 per cent of RSPs had information on their website or in their Critical Information Summaries about the impact of a power outage on the service
Not to mention the fact that according to NBN's website, the number of homes that have been connected to NBN within an agreed timeframe has gone from 92% to 84% since February 2018.
Average bandwidth congestion has also tripled in that time - going from 12 minutes per week to 36 minutes per week.
The 2019 Budget also touched on the government's decision to extend its $20 billion loan to the NBN by three years. The deadline is now set to be June 30, 2024 and was first announced back in August 2018. It also made mention of the NBN being granted permission to borrow up to $2 billion from the private sector.
The Budget also reduced the cap on Australia Regional Broadband Scheme (RBS) from $10 per month to $7.10. The scheme funds the NBN's fixed wireless and loss-making satellite services.
Of course, when it comes to complaints it isn't all about the NBN. ACMA supports the telecommunications industry in general, and we all know how much Australians complain about their phone and internet services. Sometimes to the point where disclaimers are added to pre-recorded phone messages.
Regardless of where the specific issues lie, it sure does sound like Australia needs some help dealing with the sheer volume of complaints surrounding the NBN and telco services. I would perhaps suggest throwing some of that cash into infrastructure, but that's crazy talk.