ACCC appoints SamKnows to run broadband monitoring program

First results of Measuring Broadband Australia program expected early next year

UK company SamKnows will run the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s broadband performance monitoring program.

The ACCC announced this morning that SamKnows would undertake the $6.5 million Measuring Broadband Australia program.

SamKnows’ broadband monitoring platform is based on hardware probes known as “Whiteboxes”

The company says that the Whiteboxes offer advantages over web-based testing by filtering out any impact on performance from network cabling, Wi-Fi and old consumer equipment.

In addition to pure download and upload speed, the devices can test web browsing, FTP and video streaming performance, UDP latency and packet loss, VoIP performance, DNS resolution and failure, ICMP latency and packet loss, peer-to-peer performance, email relaying, and availability.

Version 3.0 of the device can measure speeds of up to 500 megabits per second.

SamKnows says it has customers, including telecoms regulators and Internet service providers, in more than 40 countries.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said it was pleased to see the completion of the tender process for the program.

“Complaints about broadband speeds have reached a record high and there is an obvious need for clear and realistic consumer information on what to expect from broadband services,” ACCAN said in a statement.

“The information derived from the program should help consumers more easily select plans that suit their needs and we look forward to seeing the published results.”

The first year of the ACCC program will involve some 2000 households, with early results released in the first quarter of 2018.

The ACCC began seeking volunteers for the program in June. In August it announced that more than 7400 households had sought to take part. That figure has now grown to more than 8000, the ACCC said today.

“Our Measuring Broadband Australia program is going to be a real game changer for internet users and for the broadband market, especially as consumers shop around for NBN services,” ACCC chairperson Rod Sims said.

The program will begin “in the next month,” the ACCC head said.

The launch of the monitoring regime comes in the wake of a number of telcos revealing that, after discussions with the ACCC, they will compensate customers who purchased NBN plans with unachievable speeds.

Some 42,000 Telstra customers with fibre to the building (FTTB) and fibre to the node (FTTN) connections will receive compensation. Optus, TPG and Vocus have also been caught up in the issue.

The ACCC earlier this year said it would look at launching court action against ISPs over broadband performance.

The consumer and competition watchdog in August issued guidelines that called for a radical overhaul of how NBN services are marketed to consumers.

“We are pleased to report that Telstra and Optus have recently changed their marketing information to provide their customers with comparable information about the typical busy period broadband speeds that they can expect on various plans,” Sims said today.

“The remainder of the industry continues to advertise internet plans using unhelpful speed ranges, referencing off-peak speeds or failing to provide consumers with any information about the speed of their services during busy hours.”