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Incoming NBN boss inheriting regulation, service headaches

Is there poison in the chalice that Stephen will Rue?

It's not quite as bad as waking up with a hangover and a mystery tattoo, but incoming nbn™ CEO Stephen Rue will start his tenure with a new regulatory regime, and on notice to fix the network rollout's ongoing new connection problem.

This week, Rue was named to follow outgoing boss Bill Morrow, taking the big chair on September 1.

Hard on the heels of that announcement, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) dropped the unwelcome news that its long-running customer experience study is still full of connection activation horror stories.

In this 74-page report (PDF), the ACMA found 34 per cent of consumers and 40 per cent of businesses had broadband and/or telephone outages during migration to the National Broadband Network.

Of all business connections, 14 per cent suffered those outages for more than a week, and 16 per cent of homes had the same experience.

Once migration is completed, customers are broadly satisfied: only 24 per cent of households and 18 per cent of businesses thought their Internet service was worse post-migration. Nearly a quarter of dissatisfied household customers has to be a win of some kind, right?

Nearly half of households told the ACMA they were dissatisfied with their speeds on the network, and satisfaction was lowest at 44 per cent for those expecting to get 50 Mbps services.

The report continued: “At the time the data was collected, nearly half (49 per cent) of households and 37 per cent of businesses considered their complaints unresolved.”

Merely promising to do better won't get Rue off the hook, since the ACMA has also announced the enforcement regime for the migration rules it announced in July.

The rules require telcos to run line tests to confirm a new NBN service is actually working; verify that customers connecting over copper (soon-to-be former prime minister Malcolm Tunbull's beloved multi-technology model) can get the speed promised in the plan they're buying; and if a services is malfunctioning for more than three days after connection, to offer some kind of alternative service.

The ACMA this week laid out its enforcement regime for the connection rules, in what it calls a “statement of approach” (here).

Announcing the compliance regime, the authority said: “The new rules will be directly enforceable by the ACMA and, where breaches are found, allow the ACMA to commence court proceedings seeking remedies such as injunctions and civil penalties of up to $10 million.”

Authority chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the rules “will give consumers greater confidence that their telco will make sure their new NBN service will work as expected and provide options if their connection doesn’t work.

“With this package in place, the ACMA now turns its attention to industry compliance with the new rules and any enforcement action required”, she added. ®

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