Comms Alliance Proposes Improvements to NBN Migration Rules
Australia’s Communications Alliance has proposed improvements to make new draft NBN migration rules more consumer-focused and practical to implement.
The three sets of rules – which have been drafted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in response to a December 2017 Direction from the Minister for Communications & the Arts, Senator Mitch Fifield – are intended to help consumers migrate to the National Broadband Network (NBN) by ensuring they receive appropriate information, can experience the broadband speeds that they have contracted for and are not left without a working connection for a lengthy period of time.
The Communications Alliance put forward changes to the new draft rules for the provision of information to consumers migrating to the NBN, mostly focusing on the alignment of the draft rules and existing Industry Codes and regulator guidance. Communications Alliance also made suggestions to make new draft requirements for testing consumer connections on the NBN technically feasible and more useful for consumers; and proposed ways to make new draft service continuity rules more consumer-friendly and operationally workable.
The proposed rules follow on the heels of an earlier regulatory proposal – also drafted by the ACMA in response to the Ministerial Direction – covering complaint handling rules and new record keeping rules.
After several years of falling complaint numbers, the industry has recently seen a rise in complaints across a range of products and services – a development which it has been working hard to address.
Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton noted that the joint efforts of service providers and nbn have, in recent months, significantly reduced network congestion and greatly improved the timeliness of connections to the network and the percentage of connections that are achieved correctly at the first appointment. In its submission to the ACMA, Communications Alliance acknowledged, nonetheless, the disruption that the migration to the NBN has caused some customers.
“We agree that there is scope for Industry to further improve the customer migration experience. However, we are concerned that some of the proposed rules may not achieve this or, even worse, bear the risk of being detrimental to an efficient migration and enhanced consumer experience,” said Mr Stanton.
“In particular, the Service Continuity Standard, apart from lacking clarity and often not being operationally or technically feasible, is likely to introduce significant additional distraction and divert resources away from moving consumers to the NBN with the best possible experience.
“It is hard to conceive situations where it would be in a consumer’s interest to be reconnected to a legacy network rather than providing an interim alternative service while focusing all efforts on addressing any migration issues that may have occurred.
“It is important to understand that where a consumer has moved from a copper-based legacy network to an NBN FTTN, FTTB or FTTC connection, providers cannot fix any issues that may have arisen with the NBN connection if the consumer has moved back to their old network. The two services both use the same copper – so you can’t restore one and still fix the other at the same time.
Industry argues that the proposed Service Continuity Standard should be refocused, away from reconnecting consumers to legacy networks and toward maintaining continuity of service through interim alternative services e.g. mobile-based broadband, while the permanent NBN connection is completed as a matter of urgency. The submission argues that a reconnection to a legacy network be treated as a last resort.
“We also have concerns with some of the testing that the ACMA proposes in the new Line Testing Determination. The large volumes of tests that will certainly challenge providers at a time when they are trying to focus on migrating consumers to the NBN,” said Mr Stanton.
Industry also raised concerns around the technical feasibility of some of the tests, and the misalignment of the proposed new rules and already existing guidance on speed claims published by the ACCC and implemented by large parts of the industry.
“Given the multi-million dollar cost to industry flowing from the three proposed instruments – costs which are, in large part, ultimately borne by consumers – our industry is committed to work with Government and the ACMA to ensure that the measures are efficient, workable and do generate an improved consumer migration experience,” Mr Stanton concluded.
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