The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has called for the implementation of service standards to help improve end customers’ experiences of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.
Representatives of the peak communications consumer organisation faced the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network at a public hearing in Melbourne on 19 April to highlight the need for service standards for NBN retail service providers (RSPs) and to offer solutions to problems faced by consumers amid the network’s rollout.
“It is fair to say that for a number of consumers the rollout has not been seamless,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, said. “The NBN is a large project that affects most Australians. The problems faced by consumers have been wide ranging from confusion and misconceptions about what NBN is, to overcoming difficulties in getting and using services.
“To ensure services meet consumer needs, both in the medium and long-term, access to a network needs to be guaranteed in legislation.
"The service and underlying network also need to meet customer service standards. The responsibilities for the network provider and the retailers need to be clear. This would help to stop the finger pointing about who is to blame when services are not working and get resolutions more quickly for consumers,” she said.
According to ACCAN, greater transparency and accountability around service performance is also required. With this in mind, the organisation lauded the the Australian competition watchdog’s broadband performance monitoring program as “a significant step forward”.
But such a scheme should be expanded beyond the fixed-line network to include satellite and fixed wireless technologies as well, ACCAN suggested.
“It is important that consumers get information about the possible impact, and are fully aware of what it means for them. The switching process needs to be as streamlined as possible for consumers,” Corbin added.
The ACCAN representatives also raised concerns about accessibility and affordability barriers that may be excluding some consumers from benefiting from the NBN.
“All consumers should have access to NBN services and be confident using them. Access to telecommunications should not come at the expense of other important services and products for low-income consumers,” Corbin said.
The hearings come as part of an ongoing Parliamentary inquiry into the rollout of the NBN, which has seen the likes of the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, criticise the project.
Barr pitched in on the rollout of the NBN in March, suggesting that, in its current form, it will not meet the future needs of the territory.
In a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network, Barr claimed the network’s rollout is not only slow and poorly targeted, but also attacked the government’s multi-technology mix (MTM) approach.
“The experience in the ACT shows that the current NBN rollout schedule is not best suited to meet the needs of our community,” Barr stated in his submission to the inquiry, dated 28 March.
Likewise, in early April, the Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business, Leeanne Enoch, blasted the company behind the network’s rollout, nbn, over its decision to not publicly report progress against the three-year rollout plan of the NBN.
“It is unacceptable that a national project is not reporting publicly on progress against plan,” Enoch stated in a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network.