Consumer watchdog may test broadband speeds

Speed testing equipment may be installed inside households to monitor whether consumers are getting what they pay for when using the national broadband network.

Speed testing equipment may be installed inside households to monitor whether consumers are getting what they pay for when using the national broadband network.

The consumer regulator is considering a plan to roll out a "formal monitoring arrangement" involving volunteer households, designed to crack down on misleading speed promises by internet service providers.

Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has previously warned internet service providers the regulator would be watching for misleading behaviour about speeds available on the NBN, particularly as both NBN Co and internet providers were responsible for speed performance.

But it had been unclear until now how the ACCC would actually monitor speeds, apart from waiting for complaints from individuals or competitor telcos.

Mr Sims outlined a proposal that would be similar to the system used to measure television audiences.

"We are giving active consideration to putting in place a formal monitoring arrangement where we might get a representative sample of consumers to allow us to put equipment in so we can monitor what the speeds actually are," he said.

"That would give us a way not only to check on individual claims but also to have more transparency in the market about what is being delivered and how it's being delivered." The ACCC was "fairly close" to releasing a consultation paper for the project, but would need additional government funding, he added.

Misleading representations about speed could increase "exponentially" on the NBN because marketers could "take advantage of what people perceive the NBN can do", Mr Sims said in a speech earlier this year.

A spokesman confirmed the ACCC had recently approached 16 internet service providers raising concerns about the way they described real-world NBN speed experiences in marketing material, and all responded to the concerns.

Mr Sims said the ACCC would also monitor NBN Co's network performance and the representations it makes to wholesale customers.

"Some people think you just lay the fibre and off you go, but of course you've got to have the relevant boxes at either end continually upgraded to cater for the growing speeds and, yes that's something we would want to monitor."

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