Consumer group ACCAN warns of NBN download test variability

The Australian, August 24, 2017

The nation’s peak internet consumer body has warned Nat­ional Broadband Network users to place limited stock in online speed tests, after users reported widely varying speeds depending on which test sites they used.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network chief executive Teresa Corbin said online speed tests — which have entered the NBN debate because of concerns over slow speeds — could be influenced by advertisers or other factors of which consumers would not be aware.

“It’s pretty hard to know how good or how accurate speed tests are and it’s not just the technology but how dependent they are on advertising and how they are funded,” Ms Corbin said.

South Australian Christopher Riddell, who has paid for a 100 megabits per second NBN package with Telstra, has been recording his net speeds using six different online sites and found wide disparities.

At 6pm on August 3, website speedtest.net said his internet was downloading at 91Mbps, while fast.com said his speed was 48Mbps. Three other sites — google.com, ozspeedtest.com and testmy.net — all recorded speeds of 3Mbps. A sixth site, speedof.me, said his download speed was 2Mbps.

He recorded similar results, which have been provided to The Australian, at peak internet usage times on three other days.

“When I called (Telstra) about these speed issues they claimed an issue with the NBN and they were working on it … but if there was a problem with the NBN I would not expect to see the full speed at speedtest.net and not every other website,” Mr Riddell said.

“They (Telstra) seem to be doing some sort of network ­priority to speedtest.net, maybe to hide the fact they do not have enough bandwidth.”

The Australian understands telcos can influence speeds tests by providing more bandwidth between customers and certain sites.

A Telstra spokesman rejected the telco was influencing speeds and said the issue was a matter for speedtest.net.

The speed site could not be contacted yesterday.

Ms Corbin said the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s NBN performance monitoring scheme, announced in April, was vital to ensure consumer clarity around actual internet speeds.

Under the program the ACCC has called on volunteers from 4000 homes across the national to have net speed monitoring devices installed.

The ACCC plans to publish the results.

On Monday the ACCC announced a new crackdown on telcos offering those “up to” speed packages, calling on them to instead advertise expected minimum speeds during peak times.