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nbn™ gets its wish: Australian ISPs' performance to be rated

ACCC to start broadband performance rating service to reveal real-world speeds

Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission has been given at least AU$7m to fund a broadband speed rating service that will publish details of speeds users experience on Australia’s national broadband network.

This year the Commission (ACCC) has already set new rules for internet service providers that compel them to advertise typical internet speeds users will experience at peak times, rather than theoretical headline speeds. Now the nation’s Department of Communications has written the cheque for what minister Mitch Fifield describes as a “Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting (BPMR) program.”

The ACCC trialled such a scheme in 2015, and Fifield thinks that effort went well enough to cough up four years of funding.

“By collecting and publishing information about the speed and reliability of broadband packages, consumers will be better placed to choose a plan that is right for them,” says Fifield’s announcement of the funding. “It will also encourage retailers to compete on the quality of their broadband plans.”

Retail ISPs may also find themselves competing on the quality of their networks, because many engineering, regulatory and pricing factors can make the difference between chart-topping speed and a result that sees broadband users wondering how fast they can get out of their contracts.

While Fifield’s pushing the “this will be great for consumers” angle, providing information about individual retail ISP’s performance also takes some heat off nbn™, the organisation building and operating Australia’s national broadband network (NBN).

nbn™ is clearly keen to avoid some of that heat, because CEO Bill Morrow recently told a Senate Estimates hearing that “... retailers have a far greater stretch of network that must be invested in and maintained to support the user experience. Failure to do so results in a reduction of speed, packet drop outs, or a call not going through.”

By offering some insights into which ISPs are investing in and maintaining their networks and which have other priorities, nbn™ will be able to deflect some criticism.

Another organisation keen to deflect criticism will be the entity that wins the tender to provide the BPMR program. The Register expects that organisation will become a punching bag for ISPs and industry bodies that query its methodology and results whenever it produces numbers that don’t show them in the best possible light. ®

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