The Federal Government is finally making a move to quell the mounting disquiet between nbn, the company behind the National Broadband Network (NBN), and its network retail service providers (RSPs) over consumer speed issues.
The Government revealed on 1 August that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is commissioning research to obtain information directly from customers about their experience before, during and after migration to the National Broadband Network.
“As the number of consumers migrating to the NBN has increased, so too has the number of reports of consumer problems. Reported problems include issues around connection to the NBN and subsequent faults and performance issues,” the ACMA said in a statement.
“A clear and comprehensive set of information is needed to achieve a better understanding of the type, incidence and causes of these problems,” it said.
The ACMA’s research is expected to span the multiple technologies used to connect households and businesses to the network under the Government’s multi-technology rollout mix.
Additionally, the ACMA is using its formal powers under the Telecommunications Act to collect information from businesses across the NBN supply chain.
Currently, 21 industry participants, including retailers, wholesale providers and nbn itself will receive notices seeking a range of data on issues such as fault handling, connection timeframes, appointment keeping, telephone number porting, and more.
“This information will be used to identify where customer issues most commonly arise and how those issues can be either avoided or resolved more quickly. It will also help reduce the passing of customer complaints between retailers and nbn,” Minister for Communications and the Arts, Mitch Fifield, said in a statement.
These initiatives are the latest to come out of a working group led by the Department of Communications and the Arts and including the ACMA and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The ACMA’s actions come just days after nbn chief, Bill Morrow, responded to claims that the nbn’s pricing model for its network could be affecting how retail service providers (RSP) market the NBN.
According to Morrow, service providers racing to capture as much retail market share as possible "can create more downside than upside if not carefully managed".
"While we believe this phenomenon will only last while we are in the rapid expansion period, there’s no denying the effect it is having on the competitive dynamics of the broader telecommunications market – particularly for end users," Morrow said.
The backdrop to Morrow’s comments is a rising concern that the network speeds being offered to end customers by NBN RSPs aren’t always in line with the speeds that are being promised.
This issue has already seen the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) take action, with the launch of its broadband speed monitoring program, which is aimed at providing consumers with accurate and independent information about broadband speeds.
Importantly, the broadband speeds monitoring program not only aims to provide consumers with more information about services in their areas, it is also expected to draw out whether issues relating to speed are being caused by the performance of the NBN, or by retail service providers (RSPs) not buying sufficient capacity.
In July, ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said the ACCC was focused squarely on the four largest players in the local market: Telstra, Optus, Vocus and TPG.
He also flagged that the he expects the ACCC to take legal action by the end of the year against telcos that are found to have misled consumers over broadband speed claims.