The Commerce Commission has released an open letter to 2degrees, publically shaming the telco for cheating on tests designed to compare broadband performance between providers.

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In 2018, the regulator appointed UK company SamKnows to run Measuring Broadband New Zealand (MBNZ), recruiting internet users across New Zealand access to SamKnows Whiteboxes to measure the quality of their fixed-line internet.

ComCom Head of Compliance and Investigations Stephen Bass said in a statement this morning, "Through an investigation, we found that between July and November 2018, 2degrees used a computer script (or code) to identify customers on its network who were MBNZ volunteers.

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"2degrees then took steps to try to enhance the broadband performance of some of the 14 volunteers it had identified using the script."

The identity and other information about the volunteers was then circulated among 2degrees staff, according to the open letter authored by Telecommunications Commissioner Stephen Gale. No cost-upgrades were dished out.

"We consider that 2degrees' conduct put at risk the integrity of the MBNZ programme and public trust in the results," Bass said.

The SamKnows testing for the Commerce Commission involves a sample of 3000 households, and designed to fulfil a Telecommunications Act requirement to supply consumers with useful information about their broadband choices.

2degrees did not dispute the finding.

"We were very disappointed to learn of the actions of a small number of our people that weren't in keeping with our values and how we operate," 2degrees spokesman Matt Bolland told the Herald.

"While it's not uncommon for us to check the performance of broadband connections to make sure customers get the best possible experience, what took place was inappropriate.

"As soon as we became aware, we put an end to it. We have cooperated with the Commerce Commission and signed the Measuring Broadband New Zealand Code of Conduct."

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The ComCom says the 14 compromised 2degrees volunteers have been removed.

The regulator did not immediately respond to questions about whether any MBNZ results would be restated, or whether 2degrees would face any sanction beyond its warning letter.

$2.8m contract

ISPs regularly accused each other of gaming SamKnows' locally-owned predecessor, TrueNet, but nothing was ever proved. Ex-Truenet staff will find it ironic that a case of cheating has been proved under their replacement's reign.

SamKnows was chosen to replace TrueNet as the ComCom's official broadband tester in May 2018.

Gales said at the time that the testing contract was worth $2.8m over three years or $933,000 a year.

TrueNet - which did not make the cut for the new contract - worked with $680,000 per year.