ACCC told to go easy on NBN standards – for now


The government has asked Australia’s consumer watchdog to ‘go easy’ on the company behind the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) until after the new high-speed internet service is completed.

The rollout has been under the spotlight recently, with the company responsible for it, NBN Co, coming under fire for charging too much at the wholesale level, while being criticised over missed appointments to connect customers. Service providers have also been targeted by the ACCC for misleading consumers about NBN speeds, with some households compensated for lacklustre services.

The NBN rollout will not be complete until 2020 at the earliest and the Department of Communications said in a submission to the ACCC that complaints need to be “contextualised”, with problems relating to network faults in June 2017 amounting for less than 0.7 per cent as a proportion.

The submission said: “The NBN experience for the majority of customers is generally positive, with 85 per cent of consumers reporting that their service meets or exceeds their expectations.”

The submission also said that issues pertaining to NBN Co are quite small compared to the enormity of the rollout.

“NBN has reached the peak construction period. In this context, NBN’s new connections should be treated differently than standards relating to faults and repairs. It is necessarily the case that a different regulatory environment will apply to NBN when the network is complete compared to when the network is being deployed,” the submission stated.

When the NBN rollout is complete, it may be “appropriate” to be held to higher standards, the submission added.

The ACCC standards inquiry commenced in November 2017 and the NBN is expected to be a focus for the consumer watchdog in 2018.

Are NBN customers happy?

A Canstar Blue survey found that 65 per cent of NBN customers describe their service as superior to their old internet connection, while 45 per cent are paying more than they did previously. However, about one in three (34%) respondents report regular problems with their NBN connection or speed.

The survey found that NBN customers pay an average of $78 a month for their service, compared with an average of $70 a month for households with either an ADSL or cable connection.

Almost three-quarters of NBN customers (65%) switched to the network as soon as it was available in their area, while one in three (36%) took the opportunity to switch service providers.

62% of customers with an ADSL or cable connection say they are looking forward to the NBN arriving in their area and 47% plan to switch over straight away.

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