Telcos want to set their own rules for internet service claims

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Telcos want to set their own rules for internet service claims

Claim ACCC guidelines are restrictive.

The telecommunications industry thinks it should be allowed to develop its own guidelines on the claims internet service providers can make to customers about broadband speeds and performance.

Telco industry body the Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) argue ISPs should be handed over responsibility for rules that outline how ISPs can market fixed-line service performance. 

These guidelines are currently managed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Last month the ACCC said it would consult with ISPs on how to improve the information provided to consumers on broadband speed and performance, following a rise in complaints about slow internet speeds to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

The ACCC said it wanted ISPs to quantify claims like "fastest" or "high-speed", and to detail to customers real-world performance of their services in peak periods and with particular traffic types or applications.

In their submission to the consultation [pdf], the telco industry bodies argued that it was the ACCC's guidelines in the first place that had restricted the information they could provide to customers.

The rules tell ISPs to steer clear of "hypothetical" speeds in headline claims without being able to substantiate stated maximum speeds as being achievable.

But ISPs say it is "impossible" for them to be able to make precise claims about data transfer rates given the wide range of factors - like distance from the exchange, location of content being accessed, and amount of concurrent users on shared infrastructure - than can influence an individual customer's service performance.

"These factors mean that it is unrealistic for ISPs to accurately describe likely broadband performance on a customer-specific basis," the industry bodies said.

They argue the ACCC is focusing too much on upload and download speeds, rather than the "overall internet user experience". The Communications Alliance said its commissioned research had found that price, data allowance, and reliability were more important to customers than speeds.

Industry should be allowed to come up with its own guidelines that take into account the many factors that are important to a customer's overall broadband experience, Comms Alliance and AMTA argued.

Guidelines produced by the Communications Alliance would be the most appropriate given the industry "is in the best position to interpret the technical parameters, keep the guidance up to date with changes in technology, and ensure that it is workable", the telco industry bodies argued.

"Industry strongly believes that it is important to focus on principles, given that it is not realistic to make deterministic statements about speed and performance for individual customers," the joint submission states.

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