While Australia’s Communications Minister may be very pleased with how the NBN is going, the ACCC isn’t quite as chuffed.
On Wednesday, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the NBN rollout was “speeding to completion”; with almost 40,000 premises being activated each week.
Minister Fletcher said the Liberal National Government had inherited an NBN project in “disarray” six years ago; a comment Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland had yet to respond to at the time of writing.
“To reach six million premises this week shows how we have turned this project around,” said the Minister. “The NBN is on track to be completed next year, and is already delivering faster, more reliable, and more affordable broadband services to the majority of Australians.”
Minister Fletcher’s office said all Australian households will have access to broadband speeds of 25 Mbps and 90 per cent of fixed line households will have access to 50 Mbps services once the NBN is completed.
A couple of points to note – one, speeds refer to download speed only (and mileage may vary). Two, the “fixed line” reference should also include the ~280,000 Australians on fixed wireless connections as that is considered fixed line. When done right, fixed wireless broadband is speedy and robust.
ACCC – More Action Needed
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission isn’t seeing the NBN through quite so rosy a set of glasses.
On Tuesday, the ACCC tabled new draft regulated wholesale terms for the service standards NBN Co provides to retail service providers (RSPs).
“We need to see more action from NBN Co and RSPs, especially now that the NBN rollout is entering its final stages,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims. “It’s unusual for a monopoly telecommunications network operator of NBN Co’s scale not to be subject to regulated service standards.”
Among the proposed enhancements would “incentives” to lift service standards – but these would be all stick and no carrot. They include changes to rebate structures for late connections and fault repairs, which will increase and apply on a daily basis instead of a one-off payment, and an increase in rebates for missed appointments by NBN technicians – these would be required to be passed on to customers.
There would also be a monthly rebate of $20 introduced for fixed wireless services associated with congested cells or connected to congested backhaul links. In March this year, the ACCC said 3 per cent of cells on fixed wireless towers were classified as congested and in May, it released a guide for NBN fixed wireless customers who are having problems with the service.
Fixed line services generally that fail to meet certain minimum speed objectives would also be subject to $20 rebates.
“We expect retailers to ensure that their customers benefit from the payment of wholesale rebates, and we will be working closely with the ACMA to make sure this is the case,” Mr Sims said; referring to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Submissions on the ACCC’s draft decision can be submitted until 1 November 2019.