Stop talking shit about broadband speeds, ACCC tells ISPs

Internet service providers should provide consumers with accurate information about typical busy period speeds that the average end user on a particular broadband plan can expect to receive, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says.

The ACCC today unveiled a set of principles to help ISPs ensure they don’t run afoul of the Australian Consumer Law by making misleading claims about broadband speeds.

The consumer watchdog said that wholesale network speeds, or theoretical speeds based on the technical specifications of a particular technology, should not be advertised without reference to typical busy period speeds.

The other four principles are:

• Information about the performance of promoted applications should be accurate and sufficiently prominent.

• Factors known to affect service performance should be disclosed to consumers.

• Performance information should be presented in a manner that is easily comparable by consumers, for example by adopting standard descriptive terms that can be readily understood and recognised.

• RSPs [retail service providers] should have systems in place to diagnose and resolve broadband speed issues.

The report on the consultation, which was published today, said that over 80 per cent of consumers who participated said that it is difficult to ascertain and compare the speeds available across RSPs and plans.

“The ACCC considers it is important to address this issue as the National Broadband Network (NBN) and other next generation networks (NGNs) are becoming more widely available to consumers,” the report states.

“This is because the migration of services to next generation broadband networks will support greater diversity in the broadband speeds that are available to consumers, depending on their choice of RSP and plan, as well as providing opportunities for RSPs to better inform consumers about the speeds that they typically deliver on their broadband plans.”

The ACCC said it would work with industry to help implement the principles by developing best practice guidance.

Telco industry body Communications Alliance has previously argued it is best placed to develop guidelines for broadband performance claims by RSPs.

Today’s report states that the ACCC “considers that the introduction of an independent broadband performance monitoring program would further assist consumers in identifying the broadband plans that meet their speed requirements, by providing further information to assist RSPs in developing their marketing claims, as well as providing consumers with direct visibility over typical speeds”.

The ACCC in 2015 released details of a pilot broadband speed monitoring program, which involved installing broadband performance monitoring hardware in 90 Melbourne homes for a period of three months.

The organisation did not commit to launching an ongoing broadband speed monitoring program, but said that the pilot showed the feasibility and potential value of implementing such a program.

The ACCC in July last year released a discussion paper on broadband speed claims, with the commission intending to build on previous work it had carried out on the area — particularly its 2011 consultation on the issue that led to it releasing guidance on hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) and optical fibre broadband offerings.

“The ACCC has listened to the views of consumers and industry in identifying the fundamental areas of concern and developing principles by which to resolve them,” ACCC chairperson Rod Sims said in a statement today.

“The ACCC will now work with industry and issue more detailed guidelines to ensure they are able to use this framework to provide better information to their customers. It’s the first step of a longer-term plan to bring about meaningful change.”

“Greater transparency around broadband speeds will enable consumers to make clearer comparisons on product choices, further encourage ISPs to compete on speed and save consumers money,” the ACCC chairperson said.

The full ACCC report is available online,


Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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