Neelie Kroes promises an end to the up to broadband speed situation
While it is not clear exactly how this will work, alongside the EU roaming legislation voted through today by the European Union there are a number of clauses over speeds of Internet access and not just in the net neutrality arena.
New rights for consumers
1.Quality of Service
- Operators required to supply (both public and contractual) information on the average speeds they actually provide to their customers during normal and peak times, data volume limitations, and on traffic management practices.
- National regulators required to monitor quality of service and may impose minimum quality requirements, under Commission control.
- Consumers can terminate their contract if there is a significant and non-temporary discrepancy between what they were promised and the service they actually get (e.g: speed).
2.Better contracts and more transparency
- All relevant information must be provided before the conclusion of the contract.
- No changes to the contract without explicit agreement of the customer.
- Extra information to be included in contracts including: data volume limitations,
- the actual data speeds,
- how to monitor consumption and an explanation of the practical impact of the service characteristics on the use of content, applications and services;
- information on compensation, refunds and other user rights as well as how to initiate procedures for the settlement of disputes;
Contract periods: There can be no initial commitment exceeding 24 months, and a 12 month-only option must be provided
Contract roll-over: warning provided at least one month in advance, with an option to oppose tacit extension of the contract; in case where a contract rolls over the contract can be terminated without any costs with a 1 month notice.
Contract termination: consumer to gain right to terminate any contract after 6 months without penalty with a one-month notice period; reimbursement due only for residual value of subsidised equipment/promotions, if any. Any restriction on the use of the terminal equipment on other networks must be lifted free of charge once any due compensation is paid.
- Process led by receiving/gaining provider (one-stop shop),
- Improved rights for users (eg compensation for abuse or delays of switching),
- E-mail forwarding facility (where ISP provided e-mail address),
- Rules on contract termination and switching apply to all elements of bundles sold to consumers such as triple or quadruple play (including TV).
- Mandatory availability of comparison tools provided by national regulator or accredited third parties to allow users to know the actual performance of electronic communication network access and services and the cost of alternative usage patterns,
- Bill-shock mechanism to avoid "bad surprises".
While the package does not explicitly say that up to speeds are to be outlawed, a statement by Neelie Kroes suggests that this may be the intent "no more "up to 30 Megabit" deals that in practice just offer 3". The UK already has broadband speeds code of practice but it is voluntary and this new set of rules are defining rights enshrined in law. So what 'actual data speeds' really means is important, but for now that is anyones guess, the existing UK code of practice may be enough, but be compulsory rather than voluntary. Certainly the UK moving to a gaining provider led system for migrations in 2015 ticks the switching box.
We know many who will applaud the end to 'up to' speeds since it will expose real performance of ADSL and VDSL2 based services, but it will also make life harder for the various fixed speed connection services such as cable and FTTH/FTTP/FTTB, since contention and shared access on the backhaul networks is the sole reason that mortals can afford broadband connections at all.
Contract length wise, UK consumer broadband contracts already have a 24 month ceiling imposed, but forcing a 12 month option will please some, but the price may make it less appealing particularly if router hardware and installation costs end up being paid for directly. Given that consumers gain the right to exit contracts after six months anyway, we can foresee some long nights as the contract writers find ways to try and keep deals attractive.
Hopefully the mandatory availability of comparison and performance tools does not carry unduly high costs or stifle new resources emerging, for example to be an Ofcom accredited comparison site costs some £10,000 per year. Adding more licensing to a commercial market would make it a lot more difficult for independent sites no matter how popular they are, since rather than providing useful tools and advice the main focus will be on ensuring revenues cover licensing costs each year.