More than 7 million consumers are now connected to the National Broadband Network, which was able to mostly maintain its typical speeds under the strain of COVID-19 related social distancing measures thanks to temporary allowances to retail providers.

The ACCC today revealed 455,000 new NBN services were connected to the NBN in the first quarter of 2020, and users are increasingly favouring higher speed plans. Last week the regulator’s latest NBN performance report showed speeds had ultimately held up after initial problems as millions of Australians worked and learned from home.

“The most recent data from our Measuring Broadband Australia volunteers shows daytime NBN speeds have not been impacted by this additional demand, and evening speeds are mostly holding up well,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said on Friday.

NBN Co is temporarily providing retail service providers with 40 per cent extra capacity for free, which helps the companies avoid the congestion problems of peak demand times like early evening.

Streaming providers like Netflix also reduced the video quality of their content to assist, which the ACCC says helped performance in the busiest periods.

The NBN Co’s temporary extra capacity in particular allowed the network to operate as usual after early pressures at the beginning of March, before the free allowance, sent speeds down between 14 and 23 per cent for most users.

NBN Co says the free extra 40 per cent allowance will end in July and it will return to its often criticised CVC pricing model where retailers pay on a per Mbps basis. The network’s strident critics argue CVC acts as an artificial limitation on the NBN, among other qualms. 

The regulator today said the NBN Co and retailers had worked constructively on the temporary measure.

“We were pleased to see NBN Co and RSPs work together to ensure Australians can stay connected during these unprecedented times,” Sims said.

“Consumers have been downloading and uploading record amounts of data for online work, school and social activities, which has been essential in helping households get through this challenging situation.”

The latest report from the ACCC also revealed smaller retail service providers have increased their respective share of the NBN wholesale market in the last quarter to 8.1 per cent. But Telstra still dominates with 47.6 per cent.

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