ACCC homes in on better broadband speed info for consumers

1 December 2017

The ACCC has today announced SamKnows as the successful tenderer to undertake its $6.5 million broadband speeds monitoring program, which will see broadband speeds recorded across 4000 Australian homes over the next four years.

The appointment of SamKnows to deliver the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia program follows the conclusion of a competitive open tender conducted in accordance with Commonwealth government requirements.

Over the first year of the program, some 2000 households will receive testing devices, with the results of the speed tests being reported on publically by the end of the first quarter in 2018.

“Our Measuring Broadband Australia program is going to be a real game changer for internet users and for the broadband market, especially as consumers shop around for NBN services,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“We’ve had more than 8000 households sign up to take part in the program, and we’re pleased to be launching this in the next month. There will be a huge amount of interest in the results,” Mr Sims said.

Alex Salter, CEO of SamKnows, said “We are excited to launch Measuring Broadband Australia. We will work hard to help improve Australian internet performance with accurate and independent data. We thank the ACCC for the opportunity and encourage everyone, consumers and industry alike, to get involved in this important project.”

The ACCC also today revealed the findings of its initial review of whether NBN broadband advertising has improved following the publication of its industry guidance in August. This is aimed to ensure customers receive clearer information about the broadband speeds they can expect to receive when comparing services.

“We are pleased to report that Telstra and Optus have recently changed their marketing information to provide their customers with comparable information about the typical busy period broadband speeds that they can expect on various plans,” Mr Sims said.

“The remainder of the industry continues to advertise internet plans using unhelpful speed ranges, referencing off-peak speeds or failing to provide consumers with any information about the speed of their services during busy hours.”

“Potential customers trying to compare the internet services of the various providers cannot make an informed judgment about the busy period speeds they will receive. We have serious concerns about that and will be considering whether there is potential for misleading conduct that would constitute a breach of the ACL,” Mr Sims said.

“The ACCC has been very clear with industry about our expectations and consumer needs. Providers should give consumers accurate, understandable, and comparable information about the internet speeds their plans will deliver.”

“Consumers switching providers should be asking for the typical speed of the NBN broadband plan during the busy evening period,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC has published updated information on broadband speeds to help consumers make informed decisions.

Background

Monitoring Broadband Australia

On 7 April 2017, the Federal Government announced that it will fund the ACCC to implement a four-year national broadband performance monitoring and reporting program to provide Australian consumers with accurate and independent information about broadband speeds.

The ACCC published a request for tender on AusTender on 30 May 2017. The competitive open tender to appoint a testing provider closed on 26 June 2017. The tender was conducted in accordance with Commonwealth government procurement policy and rules. Due to probity and confidentiality requirements, the ACCC is unable to disclose confidential details about the tender process.

Volunteers can express their interest by completing a short online form available from the ACCC website.  

Recent ACCC action on broadband speeds

In November the ACCC accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Telstra, which admitted it was likely to have contravened the Australian Consumer Law by advertising maximum speeds on some of its NBN plans that could not be achieved in real-world conditions. The ACCC is in discussions with Optus and other providers in relation to their NBN advertising.

In 2017 ACCC has worked to improve broadband speed information for consumers due to a lack of accurate, comparable consumer information in the market. The three-part strategy includes:

  • issuing Broadband Speed Claims Industry Guidance, which assists ISPs to provide accurate information to consumers. This has today been supplemented by information for consumers on what to expect from providers that comply with its guidance.
  • investigating and taking action where ISPs are misleading consumers or are not making this information clear, and
  • commencing the monitoring program, which will provide consumers with accurate, independent information about typical speeds they can expect during peak usage times.

Australia’s broadband market

In 2016, the ACCC found that 80 per cent of consumers are confused about broadband speeds, and want information to be presented in a simple, comparable format.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman received close to 4000 complaints about slow internet data speed during 2016-17, making it one of the top consumer complaint issues about services being delivered on the NBN (TIO Annual Report, October 2017).

There are around 13.7 million internet subscribers in Australia, with fibre connections growing by 49.8% between December 2016 and June 2017 and data downloaded via fixed line broadband (2.9 million Terabytes) accounting for 97.2% of all internet downloads in the three months ended 30 June 2017 (ABS, September 2017).

Australian consumers spend over $4 billion per year on fixed-line broadband services.

 

Release number: 
MR 230/17
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