Telcos fined $88K for breaking NBN info rules

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has fined seven telcos a combined total of $88,200 for failing to comply with rules aimed at ensuring consumers receive adequate information about their National Broadband Network (NBN) services.

Telechoice, My Net Fone, Aussie Broadband, Activ8me, Flip TV, Mate Communicate and Hello Broadband have all received infringement notices from the ACMA for failing to comply with the Telecommunications (NBN Consumer Information) Industry Standard 2018.

The infringement notices are the first such notices to be issued under the new standard, which requires telcos to provide clear and meaningful information about their NBN plans in their advertising and in one-page key facts sheets, since it came into effect in September last year. 

The standard itself is part of a broader suite of rules drawn up by the ACMA in 2018 in an effort to improve Australian consumers’ experience migrating to the NBN. Among the rules introduced by the ACMA is a requirement of NBN resellers to give consumers the information they need to choose an NBN plan that works for them. 

Other rules introduced by the ACMA require telcos to test that their new NBN services are working, provide an interim service to consumers or reconnect an old service if there are delays in getting a new NBN service working and moving swiftly to resolve consumer complaints. 

The ACMA Authority Member Fiona Cameron said that telcos have had ample time to familiarise themselves and ensure they are in compliance with the ACMA’s NBN rules.

“Failure to comply in this late stage of the NBN rollout is not acceptable and warranted stronger action,” Cameron said.

‘Failing to give consumers clear and honest information about NBN plans is unacceptable and can lead to misleading conduct as recently highlighted by the recent Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s report.

“Telcos need to provide information that will assist consumers to choose an NBN plan that suits their needs and if they don’t they will be held to account,” she said. 

The fines come just days after a new report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) lifted the lid on the practice of a “small number” of telemarketers misleading and pressuring Australian consumers to sell them NBN services they may not want or need.

In the report, the office of the TIO said that between January and December last year, it received 1,729 complaints about misleading conduct involving services delivered over the NBN.

Aussie Broadband calls for retrofit funding in regional telecoms review

Internet service provider Aussie Broadband is pushing for retrofit funding as part of the fix for fixed wireless congestion. Aussie Broadband MD Phillip Britt said that in its submission to the Federal Government’s regional telecommunications review, the firm believes there is now cause to revisit the fixed wireless footprint.

“We estimate from analysing our own data that at least 18% of the fixed wireless network is currently experiencing what we define as severe congestion. Our analysis of NBN data leads us to believe that 12% of the network is experiencing what NBN defines as unacceptable congestion,” Britt said.

nn “It’s obvious to us that fixed wireless has, to some degree, been a victim of its own success. It was rolled out early in the NBN schedule and demand for services since then – what is often called “the Netflix effect” – have escalated,” he said, adding that at least part of the fix should be more Federal Government funding to revisit the fixed wireless footprint.

“Many denser rural township areas or parts of township areas allocated to fixed wireless in the early part of the NBN rollout could now be serviced by lower cost FTTN or FTTC technology,” he said.

“Ideally, no-one on a quarter acre township block should be serviced down the track by fixed wireless. It should really be used to service customers on larger blocks around the outskirts of towns, and rural properties where appropriate. Removing denser parts of townships from the network would help free up capacity for surrounding customers on fixed wireless,” Britt said.

He also said there were numerous examples of whole towns that could be switched from fixed wireless to fixed line services, such as Toongabbie and Glengarry in regional Gippsland and Port Wakefield in South Australia.

Meanwhile, townships such as Blayney in NSW or Kalbar in Queensland, have suburbs located side-by-side that show a current digital divide between customers on congested fixed wireless and those on fixed line services.

“It would not be hard to go back into these towns and retrofit those areas to fixed line services,” said Britt. “It’s a natural progression for the NBN and probably one they already have planned – we would just like to see it funded earlier. It also has the potential to increase NBN’s average revenue per user in those areas, by shifting customers to higher capacity technologies.”

In addition, the Aussie Broadband MD said the ISP has again pushed for a common definition of congestion in its submission to the Federal Government.

“There are a range of definitions of congestion in the telco universe,” Britt said. “For example, we define severe congestion as averaging less than 50% of a speed plan for 12 hours or more per day. NBN uses a slightly different definition, as does the ACCC. We think it would be helpful – especially for customers – if there was an agreed definition to base conversations around.”

Britt said that as a regionally-based telco, Aussie Broadband had a deep understanding of the challenges that currently face the fixed wireless network. “We’re not interested in the blame game here; what we’re interested in is a network that will  deliver good quality internet to regional Australians now and into the future,” he said.