ACCC issues speed guidance for ISPs

Alex Kidman 21 August 2017

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No more maximum speed claims, but a more realistic picture of what you're likely to get from each NBN provider.

One of the most contentious issues around the NBN and its real-world implementation has been the actual speeds that consumers have encountered when using services relative to the speeds advertised by ISPs selling NBN products. Many consumers have complained that despite signing up for higher speed tiers on the NBN, they're unable to achieve those speeds reliably, especially during peak periods.

The ACCC has already flagged that it's going to start measuring the real-world performance of NBN ISPs, but that doesn't give you much to go on when selecting an ISP until its figures are available.

The ACCC has today published advertising guidelines for NBN ISPs that detail what it expects to see from those providers when it comes to mentions of NBN speeds. It provides the following four basic guidelines for ISPs to follow when advertising NBN plans:

The four key guidelines for RSPs are that they should:

* indicate, in their plan descriptions and when marketing broadband plans that they supply over the National Broadband Network (NBN) and similar fixed-line based broadband access networks, the speeds at which the plans typically operate during the busy evening period

* in order to assist consumers to readily compare plans, adopt a standardised labelling system (basic evening speed, standard evening speed, standard plus evening speed and premium evening speed) that indicates a minimum ‘typical busy period speed’ for the plan

* take steps to provide remedies to those customers that cannot obtain the speeds at which their selected plan typically operates due to their particular network connection. This may include taking steps to deliver the speeds promised under the plan, providing billing refunds and reductions, supplying a more appropriate plan and/or offering to those customers the option to exit the contract without penalty

* for services supplied over FTTB and FTTN connections, where there is clear potential for some consumers to not receive typical plan speeds, RSPs should include clear and prominent disclosure in product descriptions and marketing, and give point of sale or post sale information and assistance to affected customers.

In other words, if ISPs choose to follow the ACCC's guidelines, you should start seeing quite a bit more data on what they expect to deliver to you.

It's worth noting that these are just guidelines and are not actual laws, although there's an interesting possible intersection with Australian consumer law for any ISP that did detail a range of expected speeds. If they totally failed to live up to these speeds, consumers could quite reasonably expect swift refunds for services not delivered.

Many ISPs have complained that the issues around NBN speeds relate to the Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) charge, stating that nbn charges too much for data connectivity, while nbn itself argues that ISPs are short-changing customers by not purchasing enough CVC in the first place. There has been some movement in the CVC pricing model of late, which is expected to somewhat improve overall speed matters for NBN customers.

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