The boss of the National Broadband Network has revealed the government and his organisation are considering telling each customer the maximum speed that their home or business is capable of.
The result would allow customers to make more informed choices about the best plan to buy, and avoid situations like those experienced by Telstra and Optus which have been forced to refund customers for making false promises on speed.
With the retail internet providers – such as Optus, Telstra and TPG – being the “interface” to the end consumer, the NBN, as the wholesaler, has always been reluctant to publicly disclose the figures.
But as retailers continue to withhold that information, NBN chief Bill Morrow indicated his patience is running out and that intervention was being discussed.
“The government is looking at, if the retail service providers don’t volunteer to do this, the NBN actually step forward to consider [disclosure],” he said.
“It comes with mixed feelings – we don’t want to confuse the consumer more than they already are. We want the retail service providers to publish this information, quite frankly.”
Morrow told media at the company’s quarterly results briefing that, due to the unpredictable nature of the performance of copper at each premises, the exact maximum capability is not known until it’s actively connected to the NBN. But once connection takes place, the NBN can perform a “sync rate” test which provides precise data on what the connection is capable of.
That data is then passed onto the retailer, which, theoretically, is supposed to let the consumer know in order to tailor the monthly plan according to what their premise is physically capable of and the customer’s usage needs.
NBN contractor, meet customer
In another reach-out initiative from the wholesaler directly to the customer, Morrow indicated that NBN contractors and home owners would be allowed to contact each other if there are any problems or delays with their installation appointments.
Until now, retailers, as the sole face to the customer, were the only ones authorised to speak to the customer. This has led to communication bottlenecks, triggering complaints about NBN contractors not showing up without notice or customers unable to flag their unavailability, leading to a higher than acceptable rate of “missed appointments”.
“[Currently] there’s too many people involved and too many systems involved… So we’re completely revamping that to where we want the technician in the field, the third party contractor, to have direct contact with that end user,” said Morrow.
“We’re also making sure we have more availability, better training in the field, and we’re able to predict more about the actual length of the job may take so we can do our workforce management better.”
The NBN, as of the end of September, had 6.4 million Australian premises in “ready for service” and 6.1 million “ready to connect”. Almost 3 million premises had actively connected to an NBN service.
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