A report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has found that a program to monitor and report to consumers on the quality of broadband services could be readily established in Australia.

“The ACCC believes a broadband performance monitoring and reporting program would promote competition and consumer outcomes by providing transparency over the quality of broadband services,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“As the NBN rollout progresses, providing transparency over the performance of the monopoly network provider will be particularly important as retail service providers (RSPs) will be dependent on NBN Co for the underlying network capability. In this regard, visibility over any network-based performance issues would help identify whether any bottleneck issues in the network are attributable to RSPs or the network provider.”

“In addition, it is also important for consumers to have information about how different broadband products perform when choosing the option that’s best for them,” Mr Sims said.

“A broadband performance monitoring and reporting program can be designed to increase the available information about service performance, and thereby encourage RSPs to compete on the basis of service quality, not simply price.”

The ACCC’s Pilot Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting Program involved testing approximately 90 Melbourne-based volunteers’ home fixed-line broadband connections on various technologies over a three-month period. The Pilot Program was carried out by SamKnows, who operate similar broadband performance monitoring programs internationally, and Comdate.

Volunteers installed a hardware probe on their home connection and the probe ran a series of network performance tests. The metrics selected for testing included download/upload speeds, web browsing time, latency, packet loss, video streaming, jitter and DNS resolution. A range of results were observed against these metrics, with a noticeable trend in deteriorating performance during peak use periods, particularly in relation to download speeds.

“The ACCC is greatly encouraged by the results of the Pilot Program; however a decision to proceed with a future program has not been made and any finalised program would involve further stakeholder consultation,” Mr Sims said.

“Similar broadband monitoring programs have been established in the United Kingdom (2008), United States of America (2010), Singapore (2011), and more recently, Canada. Such programs have led to improved transparency of information and increased performance-based competition for broadband services.”

See: The ACCC’s report on the findings of the Pilot Program.