ACCC seeks volunteers for broadband speed monitoring program

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says it is calling on thousands of broadband users to volunteer to be part of a new program to measure and compare broadband speeds across the country.

Under the program, the ACCC will install hardware-based devices in around 4,000 households over four years, starting with around 2,000 volunteers in the first year. The devices will perform remote testing to determine typical speeds on fixed-line NBN services at various times throughout the day.

The goal is to generate transparent consumer information about typical broadband speeds and performance at various times throughout the day.

“Australians spend over A$4 billion per year on fixed broadband services and currently many consumers are left angry, frustrated, and dissatisfied by services that don’t deliver the peak speeds that are promised,” said ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard. “The volunteers will be helping to produce accurate, transparent, and comparable information about the quality and reliability of the fixed-line broadband services available in their area. This will lead to more competition and better value for money for broadband services.”

Rickard noted that speed information is “a key ingredient for consumers, and consumers are entitled to expect accurate information about services they buy.”

The ACCC says the broadband speeds program will also help it determine if issues relating to poor speeds at peak times are being caused by the performance of the NBN or the network management decisions made by ISPs, Rickard said. “The program will allow the ACCC to determine if issues are being caused by the performance of the NBN, or by ISPs not buying sufficient capacity.”

The ACCC is currently investigating examples of where ISPs may have misled consumers in relation to their broadband speeds and other issues related to consumer guarantees that may raise concerns under the Australian Consumer Law.”

“We believe it is crucial that consumers have access to information about the speed and quality of the broadband services they are paying for, especially as thousands of new NBN plans hit the market. We aim to be able to identify when consumers are not getting the service they are paying for, and help when shopping around for a new deal,” Ms Rickard said.

If you’re an Australian broadband user, you can volunteer at this link here. Initial applications are open until the end of July 2017.

Australia’s Federal Government’s announced in April 2017 that it would fund a new broadband performance monitoring program to provide Australian consumers with accurate and independent information about broadband speeds. The program will cost around A$7 million over four years.

The ACCC published a request for tender on the AusTender website on 30 May for an independent testing provider for the program. The ACCC will finalise the volunteer panel around September 2017 in readiness to commence testing and provide its first performance reports by the end of the year.

The ACCC said the broadband monitoring program will be similar to other programs in the United Kingdom (2008), United States (2010), Singapore (2011), and Canada (2016). Such programs have led to improved transparency of information and increased performance-based competition for broadband services, the ACCC said.

In 2016, the ACCC found that 80% of consumers are confused and want broadband speed information to be presented in a simple, standardized format to enable them to easily compare offers. Complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about internet data speeds increased 48% during 2015-16, making it the single largest issue for consumer complaints during the year.

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