Some of the UK's major ISPs have agreed on a voluntary code of practice (COP) for transparency on traffic management on broadband services. The code has been put together by the Broadband Stakeholder Group in collaboration with BT, O2, Sky, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone to try and clarify for end users what traffic management is in place, and the affects this will have on a users broadband connection.
Traffic management has previously been hidden within cloudy phrases, with some providers not owning up to the practice being in use, or not explaining how their system actually works. The code being introduced tries to standardise how information is made available to users with ISPs enrolled expected to publicise this by June 2011.
The code will require providers to provide some specific information to consumers:
ISPs shall also have good practice principles on transparency that will
Understandable - ISPs will use non-technical language that consumers can understand to describe traffic management.
Appropriate - ISPs will ensure that the details included are adequate to meet the needs of different consumers. This would allow basic headline information to be displayed as well as more detailed info for consumers.
Accessible - ISPs will make the information easy to find and access.
Current - Any changes with a significant impact will be notified to customers as quickly as possible. ISPs will endeavour to offer real-time information where appropriate and practicable.
Comparable - Information will be made available in a consistent, comparable way with a key indicator table to summarise that traffic management details used on the broadband products marketed.
Verifiable - ISPs will support an independent assessment of their policies to give consumers assurance that information provided is robust.
Whilst following these guidelines, ISPs will be able to continue to market products in their own way and use their own language to describe things, but they must ensure that a link to a Key Facts Indicator (KFI) table is included which summaries the traffic management practices for each broadband product. We hope this table is displayed in a clear and succinct way as this will be key to ensuring that it is successful. The proposal does mirror some ideas we had previously to help make this kind of information easily available and it is good to see that the industry is helping progress things in this important area.
Obviously getting more providers on board will be important, but with the large players showing support, others should be quick to follow.