Carriage service providers selling National Broadband Network (NBN) services might have to reconnect consumers to their legacy systems while the migration to the NBN takes place.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said on 21 December last year it would impose the new rules on NBN carriage service providers (CSPs) in a bid to improve the consumer experience in moving to the NBN.
The ACMA is currently consulting on two of the three industry standards, which are the provision of information to consumers about retail services supplied over the NBN, promoting the continuity of voice and broadband services – both currently in consultation – and the handling of complaints made by consumers to retail CSPs.
In order to ensure that consumers are not left without working voice or internet services when migrating to the NBN, ACMA is proposing the Service Continuity Standard.
This item enables consumers to be temporarily reconnected to their old legacy service unless a consumer has agreed to be temporarily provided with an alternative service.
In circumstances where it is readily able to reconnect a consumer to their legacy service, the CSP must reconnect the consumer to their legacy service within five working days in urban areas, 10 working days in major rural areas or 15 working days in minor rural areas and remote areas.
The ACMA is also interested in finding out whether an NBN CSP would need any assistance from a legacy CSP, legacy carrier or the company behind the NBN, NBN Co.
The Standard does not currently regulate the price or non-price terms for offers of legacy or alternative services, therefore the ACMA is asking if the intent of the Standard could be undermined if providers apply fees and charging arrangements to which few consumers are likely to agree. And in this case, should the Standard set a maximum price.
The regulator is proposing the Consumer Information Standard to improve quality and consistency of information provided to consumers about NBN services. It is looking to find out if describing the number of connected devices and the kinds of online applications that can be used in a household at the same time are the most useful information.
The ACMA is also giving a chance for the industry to say whether any elements of the draft cannot be implemented for technical, operational or other reasons, and what information should be included – things such as speed tier or off-peak speeds.
The regulator is also proposing a Line Testing Determination which aims to ensure that new connections to the NBN are working effectively and enabling consumers to request a test of the speed being achieved on their new broadband service to confirm they are getting their contracted speed.
The regulator wants to know if anything could prevent this from being implemented and the feasible time frames for it to take effect. It is also questioning the industry on the best number of tests required and whether there are other measures that should be included.
"These rules will ensure that consumers have the information they need to choose a service plan that meets their needs. They will also ensure that consumers have confidence that their new NBN service will work as promised," ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin, said.
"And if there is a problem with their new NBN service, consumers will be able to move back to their old service while the problem is fixed. They may also agree to an alternative service if they prefer," she added.
The Communications Alliance director program management, Christiane Gillespie-Jones said that the prescriptive advertising provisions in the draft Consumer Information Standard were challenging, and Industry would be consulting with the ACMA and ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) on how the new rules would relate to the ACCC’s Industry Guidance on Broadband Speed Claims.
According to a statement following ACMA's announcement, the Communications Alliance raised concerns about the practicality of connecting consumers to legacy services, and is considering if this is the most efficient method to provide consumers with ongoing internet access during migration.
“Also, the requirement to respond to consumers’ speed concerns within one working day will add to costs. Providers support testing speeds in response to a consumer request, but the strict timeline proposed in the draft Determination is likely to require additional staff and lead to higher costs for consumers,” said Gillespie-Jones.