On 7 April 2017, the Turnbull Government announced the Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting (BMPR) program. 

The Minister’s release described the program objectives as follows:

“The BPMR program will enable consumers to compare speeds delivered in peak periods via independent reporting of broadband speeds.”

By collecting and publishing information about the speed and reliability of broadband packages, consumers will be better placed to choose a plan that is right for them. It will also encourage retailers to compete on the quality of their broadband plans.”

When the Department of the Communications and the Arts was asked to restate the objectives during Senate Estimates on 24 May 2017 they offered a slightly different take:

Senator O'NEILL: How does the government define the objectives of the trial?

Mr Robinson: I would say the objective of the trial is to provide consumers with improved information about the factors that drive broadband speeds.

The ACCC Chair was then asked by Senator O’Neill on 30 May 2017 to describe the objectives of the program and Mr Sims expanded somewhat further:

Well, I suppose there are three objectives. One is making the information available to consumers so they can make more informed choices. Two, looking to see whether what the companies say their product can achieve is backed up by whether in fact it does do it — that is, are they misleading consumers. And third, being able to shed some light on whether problems are the result of under provisioning or something to do with the NBN.

The priorities and scope of this scheme appear to be evolving by the month.

At the outset, the monitoring program aimed to provide a retail comparison of speeds to promote competitive tension and improve some aspects of consumer choice. More recent iterations suggest a greater focus on identifying the underlying factors which are causing slow speeds over the NBN.

The ACCC’s evidence to the NBN Joint Standing Committee reveals the regulator proposed the broadband monitoring program to the Government in the week commencing 15 February 2016.

That was 14 months ago! Why has it taken this Government so long to act? You can bet Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating had something to do with it. Or perhaps another victim of the Fifield Triangle?

This backdrop is part of the problem - the issues of poor experience will not be addressed if the monitoring program is a politically-motivated retail exercise designed to mitigate criticisms of Malcolm Turnbull’s second-rate copper NBN.

It is essential that the monitoring program is driven by an authentic focus on consumers, the process is transparent, and the methodology is developed in consultation with industry