ACCC may monitor actual broadband speeds

Program would demystify theoretical speeds advertised by ISPs

Australia could follow the US and other countries in releasing a periodic report on broadband performance.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a consultation paper on Wednesday seeking comment on a proposed program for monitoring broadband speeds and other service measurements.

Under the ACCC plan, the program would survey a representative sample of consumers in real world conditions. “Volunteers would likely be provided with software which allows them to check the performance of their own connection,” the agency wrote in the paper..

The ACCC said one reason for the program is a history of “misleading” marketing by ISPs of what broadband speeds consumers should expect. “The ACCC has investigated a range of claims about the performance of both fixed-line and mobile broadband services,” it said.

The ACCC noted that similar programs exist in the US, UK, Singapore and New Zealand.

“A program of this type could benefit internet service providers and consumers of broadband services in Australia,” said ACCC commissioner Cristina Cifuentes.

“Information on real-world performance would help consumers and small businesses choose the right service for their needs and budget, and help them to identify whether they are receiving the service quality they were promised.”

“Additional transparency on the quality of broadband services would also promote competition and encourage internet service providers to invest where necessary to deliver higher quality services to consumers.”

Earlier this year, ACCC chairman Rod Sims promised to come down hard on telcos to make sure consumers "get what they pay for." Before that, the ACCC took TPG to court over the telco's broadband ads. In 2010, the ACCC won a case against Optus for inaccurately claiming that a broadband service was unlimited.

It’s clear from the consultation paper that many of the details about the program have yet to be worked out.

In the paper, the ACCC asks consumers, ISPs and IT companies how to implement the program in a way that benefits consumers and ISPs and is cost effective.

Among other questions, the ACCC has asks what types of broadband services, which areas and which ISPs should be included in the program. It also asks comment on which broadband metrics should be measured, and how often the report should be released.

Comments are due to the ACCC by 13 September.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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