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Finder to the Node: Are missed NBN appointments set to become a thing of the past?


The ACCC plans to impose tough penalties on missed NBN appointments while Telstra ups its NBN speeds.

Have you recently waited for an NBN appointment only to have no one show up? You're not alone. The network builder missed 82,552 appointments in the 2016 calendar year. NBN Co has said that its business was still running at about 10 percent of appointments missed, a figure that Chief Executive, Bill Morrow, described as "an industry norm".

In November last year, the ACCC launched an inquiry into NBN Co’s wholesale service standards, covering issues like missed appointments and connection delays.

Industry submissions to the inquiry don’t close for another fortnight, but already the ACCC is indicating it will intervene by introducing financial penalties for missed appointments.

"[The regulation] will go to people turning up when they say they'll turn up and penalties if that doesn't happen," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims told Patricia Karvelas on the ABC's National Wrap program. Sims confirmed the new rules would be introduced "some time this year".

Teresa Corbin, CEO of the consumer group ACCAN, said delays to installation or repairs "can result in much stress and detriment" for Australians.

"We often hear from consumers who have service faults which last for long periods of time due to missed appointments from technicians," she said.

"When outages occur people may be unable to access government services, education and employment opportunities."

When a customer requests to connect to the NBN, the ISP (internet service provider) puts the installation request through to NBN Co on the customer's behalf. Installation appointments are handled by technicians contracted to NBN Co, but all communications to the customer regarding the installation are managed by the ISP despite having no control over what the NBN Co employees do. If the technician doesn't show up, the customer has to speak to the ISP who, in turn, will speak to NBN Co to see what's happening.

As such, ISPs (internet service providers) have come out in full support of the ACCC imposing tougher service standards.

An NBN Co spokesperson said that procedures have been put in place that prompt technicians to call ahead the day before and give notice they are attending, but this has done little to improve the number of missed appointments which still hovers around 10 percent. Imposing financial penalties on NBN Co when its technicians do not turn up for scheduled appointments is likely to help bring that number down.

The penalties have not been finalised, but figures have been proposed in industry discussions: $25 per connection for every missed appointment above an agreed acceptable level of missed appointments. This would add more costs to NBN Co and would be paid to the ISP, not the customer.

Telstra ups the NBN speed ante

According to Telstra boss, Andy Penn, it now delivers "more than" 85 percent of the maximum speed to its customers during peak times.

In recent months, big name ISPs such as Telstra, Optus and TPG have been found guilty over slow speed services. Since then, new rules have come into play around how ISPs are able to market NBN services – namely dropping the "up to" claims in favour of advertising their services based on the average speeds most consumers can expect to achieve during the busy evening period.

With average speeds out in the open and NBN Co offering more generous amounts of bandwidth for less, ISPs have been buying up more capacity for their customers resulting in improved speeds.

“On speeds, we have recently increased our capacity further to deliver 80 percent of the maximum speed during peak times, ahead of ACCC guidelines,” CEO, Andy Penn, said in a statement.

“For the past three months, our network has delivered an average of more than 85 percent of the maximum speed during peak times.”

The speed improvements are reflected in Telstra's advertised NBN plans with typical evening speeds now showing as 40/15 Mbps for the nbn50 tier versus the 30Mbps speed it was showing last month. Similarly, evening speeds have jumped to 80/30 Mbps at the nbn100 tier, putting it ahead of the likes of Optus and TPG. Given that Telstra has the largest market share of any NBN ISP, these are good signs.

However, it still trails the likes of Aussie Broadband who currently advertise their typical evening speeds at 43Mbps and 84Mbps at the nbn50 and nbn100 tiers respectively.

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