Having access to clear and reliable information about the performance of internet access is important to all Australians. However, for those living in rural and remote areas it is often critical. These Australians have limited options for connectivity and are often vast distances from the nearest community. This places increased importance on the stability and speed of their internet access as it is their main connection to friends, family and business.
Last month the ACCC put out a call for 4,000 volunteers to measure and compare real world broadband performance and reliability across the country. This is particularly important given Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often only quote theoretical maximum connection speeds before they lock consumers into lengthy contracts. Providing consumers with more information about what they can realistically expect from a service, before they sign a contract is certainly a step in the right direction. Clear information on average and not just peak speeds will also benefit those ISPs who are doing the right thing by their customers and ensuring that they have adequate bandwidth available for peak usage times.
At this stage, the ACCC broadband monitoring program will be focusing only on connections using fixed line technology and users in rural areas relying on satellite or fixed wireless will not be part of the study. Fortunately, the consumer advocacy group Choice is implementing its own independent study, which will include users with satellite and fixed wireless internet. Together, these two studies should provide a better picture of the state of internet in Australia and allow consumers to make better choices around which ISP they sign up with.
The Alliance is pleased to see that organisations are making an effort to improve the information available to Australian consumers wherever they live. However, both of these initiatives will only work if they receive enough participation and support from volunteers around Australia. More information can be found in the ACCC media release. If you are on satellite or fixed wireless internet and would like to participate, please visit www.choice.com.au/broadband.