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Thursday, 19 April 2007 12:37

ACCC to cease reporting broadband numbers

The ACCC is to cease gathering and publishing statistics on broadband numbers in Australia, following the government withdrawing a requirement for it to do so.

The results were published quarterly as the ACCC's 'Broadband Snapshot'. It contained figures for the number of broadband users by technology - Cable, Satellite, ADSL Other DSL, Other - and historical data from prior quarters to enable comparisons.

The Snapshot was initiated following a directive from the Minister for Communication in 2003. This has now been revoked. Announcing its decision to cease collecting and reporting data, the ACCC said: "Given the recent recommencement of the ABS' Internet Activity Survey and confirmation that its half-yearly reporting will continue in future, the ACCC will cease publication of the Broadband Snapshot in the interests of minimising uncertainty and inconsistencies in reporting.

"Data collection and publication of this nature is not part of the ACCC's core telecommunications functions, and given the voluntary nature of the survey which underpins the Broadband Snapshot, may lead to under-estimation relative to the more robust method employed by the ABS."

However, it added: "While the ACCC will no longer be publishing the Broadband Snapshot, it will be giving further consideration to the ongoing collection of comparable data for certain needs which the ABS data alone will not fulfil."

A spokeswoman for communications minister, Helen Coonan, told iTWire: "The minster did not influence the ACCC’s decision. Her position is that the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Internet Activity Survey, which was resumed last year, is a more comprehensive survey of broadband take-up as it is based on a full census of all internet service providers."

To collect its data, the ACCC canvassed the top nine broadband ISPs asking them to provide data on the geographic availability of their service and the total number of end-user connections. The ACCC noted in the snapshot that "As the survey is not a census of broadband take-up activity, the ACCC considers that the figures presented may understate total subscriber numbers although not to a material extent."

However the degree of under-estimation, and its consequences wee made rather public earlier this month by the Shara Evans, CEO of telecoms industry research firm, Market Clarity.

Evans told a conference that, at 30 September 2006, the ACCC's Broadband Snapshot had the total number of broadband subscribers at 3.6 million and the ABS' Internet Activity report at 3.9 million. More importantly, she pointed said the OECD was using the lower ACCC figure for its international comparisons of broadband uptake.

ABS reporting now appears to be at least as comprehensive and as timely as that provided by the ACCC, and more accurate.The ABS professes to take a census of "all live ISPs", and counted 467 for its September 2006 report. However Evans said Market Clarity's research had identified at least 650. The ABS data used to be rather more delayed than the ACCC Snapshot. However the most recent data, for 30 September 2006, were released in February by both organisations.

The ABS also collects data on dial up Internet numbers, which the ACCC does not. And it provides a breakdown by business and residential and by speed, which the ACCC does not. The only information that ACCC provides which ABS does not is to report cable and satellite broadband numbers separately.

The Minister's 2003 directive requiring the ACCC to gather the data said: "the current monitoring and reporting arrangements provide some information on broadband, however, the utility of the information is limited due to timing, scope and confidentiality issues...The objective of the enhanced monitoring and reporting arrangements is to provide more information to improve transparency in the market. A more efficient market is also expected to have flow on benefits such as promoting competition and assisting rational investment in the industry. Additionally, the information will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Government's telecommunications reforms and assist further policy development. The greater level of detail is necessary to assess and promote the development of competition in broadband services."

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