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Wanted: broadband crash-test dummies for ACCC's speed tests

Competition regulator wants you to help tag slack ISPs

Having beaten off opposition from carriers and ISPs, Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission has kicked off its broadband speed monitoring program.

The project, which is supported by nbn™, needs household volunteers – 2,000 of them this year, to begin with. Those volunteers will have a hardware device installed to act as an agent grabbing speed data and reporting back to the competition regulator.

The ACCC opened its tender seeking an independent tester for the AU$7 million testing program, which it first trialled in 2015. Back in February the regulator warned ISPs against inflating speed claims with “up to” advertising, telling them it's more honest to market typical peak-hour speeds.

National Broadband Network (NBN) services generated nearly 12 per cent of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in the 2016 financial year, but attribution for slow speed is difficult. A fibre-to-the-node or HFC user might suffer slow speeds because of the tail connecting them to the NBN, their ISP might have under-provisioned its backhaul links, or it may be scrimping on the international links needed to get data from overseas.

That's why nbn™ backed the idea of a monitoring program. As CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates in February, “retailers have a far greater stretch of network that must be invested in and maintained to support the user experience. Failure to do so results in a reduction of speed, packet drop outs, or a call not going through”.

Interested households can register their interest in the program here. ®

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