ACMA imposes new rules for NBN migrations

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ACMA imposes new rules for NBN migrations

Telcos told to fall in line.

NBN retail service providers will need to adhere to a new set of rules outlining how they are to handle migrating customers to the national broadband network from next year.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today announced its intention to implement new rules that would "significantly improve the consumer experience" in moving to the NBN.

It claimed many telcos weren't giving customers the right information or acting "quickly and effectively" to resolve migration issues.

ACMA claimed more than 55 percent of all network-related complaints for the three months to June 30 were about faults on the network and broadband speeds, while a further 44 related to connection issues.

The regulator said connection issue complaints took on average up to 28 days to fix, and fault complaints took up to 19 days to resolve.

It also noted the massive increase in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, with numbers more than doubling this year.

ACMA said industry co-regulator arrangements weren't working for consumers, and therefore new mandatory rules were required for telcos to "improve their performance".

The new rules will force telcos to line-test new services after connection to identify faults or other problems early, and to line-test at any time if requested by the user.

They will require telcos to report their complaint numbers quarterly to ACMA - which will be publicly released - so it can monitor changes; to adhere to minimum standards for their complaint-handling processes; and allow for consumers to be reconnected to legacy networks within a certain timeframe if that fallback is needed.

The rules will also outline the minimum information that RSPs must provide before signing customers up to the NBN.

This "consumer information standard" must include "details about the speeds to be delivered, technical limitations such as power outages, the technology on which the service is to be delivered, exit provisions when services are not as advertised and what information will be provided in the event of a network outage", ACMA said.

ACMA will additionally undertake further research into modem quality, in the expectation of producing either technical standards or a modem performance rating scheme.

The rules will be "immediately and directly enforceable" by ACMA once they come into force on July 1 next year. The agency will start consulting with industry on the changes in early 2018.

Breaching the rules could see RSPs face civil penalties of as much as $10 million.

ACMA made the announcement on order of the federal government, which will provide the agency $8.7 million over three years to support the measures.

Telco industry body the Communications Alliance called the move a "positive" step.

“The transition to the NBN is creating major change for the country, requiring ongoing adaptation throughout the supply chain," CEO John Stanton said in a statement.

"To the extent that the measures announced will contribute to better coordination of the multi-party supply chain that delivers services to consumers - and therefore improve the overall consumer experience - this will obviously be a positive."

The Comms Alliance said some RSPs were already undertaking most or all of the activities listed under the ACMA's proposed rules as a result of existing industry co-regulatory measures.

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