The government and NBN Co continue to resist calls to publish a database of maximum attainable speeds for every line on the NBN, arguing it is a call for retail service providers (RSPs) to make.
Labor has been pushing for access to the database since July to allow consumers to see what their line is capable of theoretically carrying - and therefore make an informed choice about the type of retail service to order.
However, it’s likely that the mass publication of the data would also expose how many premises are incapable of supporting 50Mbps speeds and above.
This could challenge the narrative that most customers choose 12Mbps or 25Mbps services of their own accord, exposing the proportion of users on lower tier plans due to technical limitation.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield last night resisted calls to direct NBN Co to publish the data.
“I’m not going to make any unilateral declarations sitting here in senate estimates committee at 10.30pm on a Tuesday night,” he said.
If NBN Co was directed to publish the database, CEO Bill Morrow said he’d “have to consider” what harm it might cause, though he noted that he’d ultimately “do whatever the [shareholder] minister asks”.
However, both Fifield and Morrow indicated they would leave it to retail service providers (RSPs) to make the call on how the data might be given to consumers.
“The consumer talks to the retailer about the product,” Fifield said.
“The retailer has the data from NBN Co as to what particular lines can support, so the retailer is in a position to say to the consumer ‘this is something we can sell to you given the capabilities of that line’.”
Morrow agreed, arguing that if a mandate was made to release the data, “shouldn’t we mandate that ... if the consumer asks what’s the maximum speed I can get, that the retailer tells them?”
“Isn’t that the appropriate way to do this because we provide that information to the retailer?” Morrow said.
“In my view NBN Co should not be the police.”
Morrow said RSPs had previously expressed a preference that NBN Co “play the role of wholesaler and step behind the curtain”, allowing the RSP to continue as the first port of call for all end user issues.
He said RSPs “may be willing” to communicate maximum attainable rate data to consumers if they were asked to.
“I think the RSPs are intent on being transparent and giving a good service. I think they are the appropriate entities to [release the data],” Morrow said.
Morrow “strongly suggested” raising the issue at a roundtable forum convened by Fifield that brings together government, NBN Co, regulators and CEOs of the top RSPs.
“We’re seeing some amazing collaboration occurring across the CEOs of the top retailers, myself, the regulatory bodies, rethinking how we get the right experience,” he said.
“I think we could solve this in the roundtable.”