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Aussie Broadband wants NBN congestion rebates extended to FttN

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An NBN FttN node getting a Nokia line card installed


Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet

Aussie Broadband has called for the company responsible for the National Broadband Network (NBN) to pay retailers a rebate on localised fibre-to-the-node (FttN) congestion, following the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday flagging a similar AU$20 charge for congested fixed wireless nodes.

The telco widely welcomed Tuesday’s draft decision by the ACCC to shift the NBN rebate system from one-off payments for late connections and faults to a daily penalty, in addition to boosting the amount for the rebate itself.

“We are particularly happy with the fixed wireless pre-connection reporting of congested cells and the congestion rebate proposal, which is a cost that our business has been wearing for many affected customers,” Aussie Broadband managing director Phil Britt said. 

“We would like to see it extended to cases of congestion in other parts of NBN’s network, for example, nodes experiencing localised congestion on FttN.

“We are still concerned about minimum fixed wireless speeds of at least 6Mbps during the busy period, and about how congestion is defined by NBN, as opposed to how customers define it.”

Britt added that the company would also like to see the lift for missed appointments, which the ACCC wants tripled from AU$25 to AU$75, be lifted even further to AU$150.

“We believe it should reflect the true cost to the customer rather than just act as an NBN incentive, given customers often take time off — including annual leave — to attend appointments.”

The ACCC said on Tuesday the rebate for missed appointments would be the only one that requires retailers to pass it directly onto customers.

Aussie Broadband passes on all rebates to customers, Britt said.

The managing director added that although NBN has improved its fault-fixing process, the company knows of a “significant percentage” of customers who don’t bother to get a fault fixed and live with a sub-standard line.

In its decision, the ACCC said NBN needed service commitments on a per-service basis instead of the aggregate basis it previously had.

“We consider that aggregate performance objectives limit incentives to drive improvements beyond the performance objective, and can hide pockets of very poor performance where performance is averaged out,” it said.

Other Australian telcos said the draft decision was a step in the right direction.

Aussie Broadband is currently raising capital in preparation for being listed on the Australian Stock Exchange next year.

“The industry collectively has more to do to lift our game,” Optus vice president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said.

“Paying out rebates should become the exception not the norm as we need to get things right the first time.”

A Telstra spokesperson said the telco is reviewing the decision and would provide a submission by the November 1 deadline.

Yesterday, NBN said it has “every incentive” to improve its levels of service.

“It’s in our best interest for customers to join the network as early as possible, stay connected, and ultimately take up higher value services over time,” an NBN spokesperson said.

“However, we are concerned the draft determination announced today by the ACCC will not drive the right improvements in customer experience and could lead to unintended consequences.”

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