National broadband network customers will be able to request speed tests from their internet provider under a raft of new government-imposed rules on telecommunications companies.
Among the new requirements for NBN retailers will be to improve complaints processes, which will include telling customers how long it will take to fix services.
Providers will also be required to perform line tests to ensure the connection is working when the NBN is installed, and when requested by customers undertake line speed tests.
If there has been an “erroneous disconnection” and cannot be connected, retailers will be required to reconnect customers’ old networks within specified time frames.
Telcos will also have to explain how the different speed tiers apply to their home or business and provide information summaries when signing customers up to a new NBN contract.
These requirements will be implemented by the n Communications and Media Authority, which will be given $8.7 million in funding over three years from July 2018.
The funding will also cover research by ACMA into modem quality, which could lead to new technical standards or a rating scheme.
The NBN Co will be required to establish a consumer dashboard to report NBN connection, fault repair and service delivery performance.
Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said the majority of customers moving onto the NBN had a “smooth experience”.
“The rollout of the NBN is a once-in-a-generation migration process that will see every home and business in the nation able to hook up a new high-speed broadband connection,” Mr Fifield said.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the concerns they had about how telcos were helping consumers move onto the NBN came out of analysis of the industry’s data, including an increase in complaints to the ombudsman.
Complaints relating to faults took an average of 19 days to resolve, while connection issues took 28 days.
More than half of complaints related to fault and speed-related issues.
“Industry co-regulatory arrangements are not serving consumers well in a number of important areas. As a result, the ACMA will make new mandatory rules to require telcos to improve their performance in these areas,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton said the decision would “obviously be a positive” to the extent that it would contribute to better coordination of a multi-party supply chain.
He said the initiatives are an extension of existing industry co-regulatory measures in information provision, complaint handling and complaint reporting.
“Some providers are already undertaking most or all of the activities mentioned by the minister, and the initiatives announced today are an opportunity to create more consistent behaviour across the sector,” he said.
Internet providers who do not follow the new rules may face court proceedings, which would seek remedies such as injunctions and penalties of up to $250,000.
The maximum civil penalty a court can impose is $10 million for breaching a service provider rule.
This makes them different to co-regulatory industry codes that do not levy financial penalties.