The Coalition government’s signature NBN strategy is causing the biggest problems for users, the ACCC finds

- February 12, 2020 2 MIN READ
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Fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), the key broadband delivery method instigated by former communications minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Coalition government’s NBN policy, is failing to deliver for around a quarter of users, the latest review of broadband speeds by consumer watchdog the ACCC has found.

The latest Measuring Broadband Australia report – the eight by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission – is based on speed tests carried out in November 2019. It found Australian broadband plans achieved average download speeds of 85.3% of their maximum possible speeds during the peak 7-11pm period, an improvement on previous findings.

However, many FTTN connections still don’t come close to performing as promised, leading ACCC Chair Rod Sims to say “too many consumers with FTTN connections are not receiving the speeds they are paying for”.

“We are pleased to see that speeds have generally improved, however we need more action from NBN Co and retail service providers (RSPs) so that all consumers can access their full NBN plan speeds,” he said.

FTTN – using the existing copper wire network from the node to homes, rather than installing Labor’s option of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) was Malcolm Turnbull’s and the Coalition’s solution to produce a “cheaper” NBN during the 2013 election campaign.

The ACCC’s latest results show that about a quarter consumers on FTTN connections, who are paying for 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps plans, still did not receive anywhere near their full plan speeds, at any time.

The Liberal Party estimated a $29.5 billion before the 2013 federal election, only to have the cost rise to by $20 billion afterwards. Labor estimated the cost of its FTTP plan at $43 billion, a figure the Coalition disputed and doubled.

The final cost of the Coalition’s NBN roll out increased from $49 billion to $51 billion in 2018. Yesterday NBN boss Stephen Rue said he will not be asking for more money from taxpayers as the government-owned business heads to completion of the project on June 30. The company posted losses of more than $2 billion in the half year results.

The ACCC Measuring Broadband report found consumers on lower-priced plans were more likely to come close to getting the fastest download speed possible on their connections. Consumers on 12 Mbps plans received an average of 90.4% of their connection’s maximum possible speed, while those on 25 Mbps plans received 88.7%.

Most RSPs improved their average download speeds between August and November 2019, including in the evening

But the ACCC estimates results would have been between 1.4 percentage points and 6.2 percentage points better if issues causing poor performance on some FTTN connections, such as problems with in-house wiring, had been addressed.

Rod Sims said consumers with underperforming connections should contact their RSP, and ask if a technician can to fix their connection issues.

“Otherwise, they should be able to move to a cheaper plan with top speeds their connection can actually provide,” he said.

The NBN services is outperforming the old ADSL services across a range of measurements and NBN users are also experienced fewer outages, lower latency and less packet loss, compared to ADSL, the ACC said.

The next Measuring Broadband Australia report, due in May, will for the first time compare how RSPs perform in streaming video content from Netflix and YouTube.

The ACCC is seeking more volunteers for its broadband monitoring program. If you’re interested, details are available at measuringbroadbandaustralia.com.au.