The Turnbull government has called in the communications umpire to sort out the latest fight over the NBN

NBN CEO Bill Morrow. Source: NBN

The federal government has ordered the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to investigate where responsibility lies as the NBN and retail service providers blame each other in response to customer complaints.

The NBN and retailers such as Telstra, Optus and TPG, faced a torrent of criticism this year as the rollout accelerated into more densely populated metropolitan areas. The complaints include underwhelming speeds, customers stranded in internet darkness between disconnection of old service and connection of NBN, and the allocation of superior technologies to certain areas.

“As the number of consumers migrating to the NBN has increased, so too has the number of reports of consumer problems,” the ACMA said.

With the NBN blaming retailers, who blame the NBN, the government wants ACMA to use its statutory powers to harvest data and information from 21 industry players involved across the supply chain.

The authority will also research the various connection technologies used – fibre-to-the-premises, fibre-to-the-kerb, fibre-to-the-node and hybrid fibre-coaxial – and the actual end user experience.

“The ACMA is also commissioning research to examine the current Australian consumer experience before, during and after migration to the NBN, across the range of NBN technologies that are being connected to households and businesses in the twelve months prior to the research fieldwork,” ACMA said.

The results will add to the authority’s NBN consumer experience study performed last year.

The ACMA inquiry comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is kicks off a broadband monitoring programme, to put pressure on retailers to buy enough wholesale capacity from the national network.

Complaints about broadband speeds to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman increased 48% in 2015-16, which made it the single most-complained about issue during that year.

NBN retailers offer 12Mbps, 25Mbps, 50Mbps and 100Mbps tiers to most Australians. But many customers have complained the actual speed achieved does not go anywhere near the promised caps.

Netflix recommends at least 3Mbps for a reasonable experience of its streaming services in standard definition, 5Mbps for high definition and 25Mbps for ultra-high definition.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s state-owned Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network is delivering a minimum of 100Mbps.

Despite the NBN rollout now reaching deep into metropolitan areas, Australia’s mobile internet continues to comfortably outperform fixed line, averaging 15.7Mbps for the March quarter compared to 11.1Mps for landline.

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