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Bill Bennett


New Zealand’s flawed broadband product disclosure regime

Tuanz CEO Paul Brislen nails the problem in product disclosure. He says the idea of product disclosure is good, but at the moment consumers only get basic information. The more difficult, technical stuff is still hidden.

He writes:

I don’t have a problem with traffic management plans, but when the telcos hide that information away it makes buying decisions doubly tricky, 

Today’s broadband product disclosure regime isn’t perfect, but it makes sense for today’s broadband market. It won’t be good enough in the near future when services move from copper to fibre.

On UFB, the wholesale fibre companies get to design the broadband delivery products. They are standardised.

This means companies selling retail internet services get to pick from the same pool of delivery products then package them with their own back-end and support. Those difficult technical details are the areas where they can differentiate themselves from rivals. Consumers may find it hard work ploughing through those details — although that’s where people like me can help explain matters — but soon they will be the only parts of the contracts that matter.

Which means either we tighten the disclosure regime, or it will become meaningless.

By the way, I’d also like to know things like how long it takes for a service provider’s support desk to answer incoming calls among other non-technical matters.



4 thoughts on “New Zealand’s flawed broadband product disclosure regime

  1. Interesting, thanks for sharing Bill.

    Getting the balance right between providing enough detail to be meaningful to the people who understand the techy stuff, and not bamboozling the less techy customers with jargon is very tough.

    As an ISP if you fill your sign-up page with lots and lots of technical details people will get confused, so you really need no more than 2-3 key metrics that are both easily explained and easily compared, and, ideally, independently verified. The complexity of ADSL where distance is such a factor (and in many cases overshadows any difference between ISPs) makes things like average speed useless.
    I don’t know what the right metrics might be, but I think something like the amount of international bandwidth allocated per customer might be a useful metric as Paul suggests.

    (To answer your question about helpdesk hold time for Bigpipe – we don’t have a call centre, so nobody ever waits on hold with us. Our email support desk responds very quickly though. Our average response time to date across all (urgent and no-urgent) emails is quite a bit less than 30 minutes – less time than many people wait on the phone with other ISPs – and you the customer can spend that 30 minutes getting on with your day instead of listening to hold music. Furthermore we prioritise connection issues so they get responded to considerably faster than non-urgent issues. )

    1. I still think it would be useful to have some kind of meaningful, standardised reporting on the quality of ISP support. Consumer does some useful work in this area.

  2. Seems to me the basic problem for a user is getting any honest performance data. I’m a mere user, not a techie, but measuring the line performance seems possible; what no-one will disclose is how they scale capacity to match growing demand, and minimise degrading performance over time. Selling on “”capacity up to…” just seems to me to be misleading; and its very hard to get an informed estimate from the technicians who do have some idea – the lawyers & salesmen keep them muzzled .

  3. The only objective testing at that level is done by Consumer, but its survey is limited. TrueNet measures technical performance, but its results are mainly of use to people with specialist needs. Between the two a picture emerges, I may take a look at that.

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