While I am now completely
dependent on my mobile
phone, the very
technology that makes
this possible was unimaginable when I was
In contrast, I remember the thrill of
visiting the manual telephone exchange
where my aunt worked, and wishing I could
play with the lines that the operators used
to connect calls. Much later, I remember the
excitement of getting a home phone with
buttons rather than a dial.
Fast-forward to the mid-90s and the
internet arrived – first at work and then at
home, with the wonders of dial-up Ozemail
(thanks Malcolm!). This soon brought my
first experience of bill shock, due to excess
data usage. While I cut back on web surfing,
it was still a bit of a mystery whether I'd be in
trouble from month to month.
Much has changed since then, but some
things have stayed the same. Negotiating
internet services is still just too hard.
It's impossible to know what sort of
internet service you'll get until it's actually
connected. Want to use your internet service
to stream movies? Don't bet on it.
On my local Facebook group, one of the
most common questions people ask is which
internet service provider is best, but they
rarely get a clear answer. It seems to depend on which street you live in, or even which
house in that street.
If you're not happy with the speed of your
connection, you need to spend hours on
the phone, working through whether the
problem is with your home Wi-Fi network,
the modem, your phone line or the local
exchange – with no guarantee that your
problem will be resolved.
You'd hope that the NBN would make this
better, but that's not always the case.
If you have a speed or connection problem
with an NBN service, there's now yet another
player in the buck-passing line – Nbn™,
the government organisation building the
network. CHOICE members have told us
about spending weeks in limbo while Nbn™
and their internet service provider (ISP)
argue about who is responsible for a fault.
Observing the growth in complaints
in this area, the ACCC has suggested
consumers need better information on
broadband performance, floating the
idea of a broadband monitoring service
to gather data on the actual speed of
ISPs oppose this push, saying that
consumers have unrealistic expectations
about speed. We say that if they can't provide
fast internet, they shouldn't advertise it.
This situation just isn't good enough.
Good quality internet is now essential to daily life, in the same way as fixed line
telephone services once were.
Where consumers don't get what they
are paying for, problems need to be resolved
quickly. And with the increased costs that
come with NBN services, consumers have a
right to expect more.
Alan Kirkland, CHOICE CEO