ETNO response on BEREC report on Monitoring Quality of Internet Access Services in the context of Net Neutrality
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ETNO believes that monitoring the quality of broadband performance can be a positive and fruitful exercise both for European citizens and for European market players operating along the broadband value chain. Beyond legal obligations coming from the Universal Service Directive (USD) and further best practice at national level, ETNO supports cost-effective and appropriate steps to increase transparency. Transparency around strong broadband performance is a means to differentiate between competitors and, consequently, delivers an incentive to invest in high-speed-networks. Only reliable measurement tools provide such transparency. In contrast, non-reliable measurement tools (e.g. online web portals) often erroneously report low network performance and increase end users’ complaints and mistrust. Therefore, the growing availability of non-reliable tools is a negative incentive to invest in high-speed networks and may unduly affect end users’ trust towards network operators.
According to ETNO, development of reliable measurement tools needs to be done cautiously and be preceded by a thorough analysis on the goals that BEREC wants to reach with the tools. Depending on whether the tool will be used (1) to validate transparency compliance with regard to net neutrality, (2) to inform the end-user after contract conclusion on speed of his/her personal broadband connection or (3) to serve as support for customers before contract conclusion searching for objective information on what he can expect from different broadband offerings in the market, has an important impact on the design of such tool. ETNO believes that it is impossible to catch all those purposes in one tool. Indeed, for measuring an operator’s network quality a measurement tool which excludes all external influences (home network, potential internet server congestion,…) should be preferred. However, this ETNO response on BEREC report on Monitoring Quality of Internet Access Services in the context of Net Neutrality ETNO Reflection Document RD405 (2014/04) 2 might not be the favorable tool, if the user shall be informed about the quality of service received, which includes a range of external influences beyond the service delivered by the operator. Depending on the choice made with regards to the measurement approach, BEREC’s or NRAs’ communication will need to provide proper guidance on the correct interpretation of the measurement results.
In defining the scope of future BEREC work in this area, ETNO suggests that the relationship with the “net neutrality” concept is handled with caution: as regards IAS in terms of physical access to the Internet, ETNO suggests that the exercise of measurement of quality by regulators be carried out by sticking to the legal provisions of the USD, that is by taking into account very well defined parameters defined in the Directive and avoiding the misuse of generic concepts such as “net neutrality”. Since the USD already provides provisions to measure the quality of service for the sake of efficiency, additional legal rules to supervise net neutrality do not appear to be currently appropriate. Any approach intended to protect the quality of Internet access service from the interference of specialized services could have counterproductive effects and actually result in a lower quality for Internet access service. Such measure could also affect competitive position of different actors in countries with Infrastructure Competition. As long as a dynamic allocation of mutualized resources between the two categories of services is allowed, the provision of specialized services and best effort Internet over the same physical network infrastructure is the most efficient use of network resources. Flexibility in operating the networks and dynamically assigning network resources is important for efficiently transporting multiple traffic flows over the network. When operators invest in their networks to allow specialized services, the increased capacity also benefits the Internet access services, due to the efficient allocation of resources and the expanded high speed broadband coverage to those households where only offering Internet Access Service made it not affordable, as it is recognised by the FCC1 in their studies.
As regards the correct and fair use of well-defined concepts and parameters, ETNO also would like to highlight that close attention must be given, for the sake of accuracy, to characteristics of the technology platform whose quality is measured and to the specificity of national broadband markets. The possible definition of a European system designed to monitor and measure the quality of broadband needs to avoid non-accurate results, which would have a detrimental effect and result in a loss of ISPs’ credibility in the eyes of the customer. In this regard, ETNO shares the concerns expressed by BEREC on the “the second Broadband Quality of Service report” carried out by Sam Knows for the European Commission. Due to the likelihood that single measurements generated by consumers are not fully reliable, any potential legal consequence resulting from such a measurement would have no legitimate grounds.
ETNO believes that European network operators should be involved, from the very beginning of the process, in the definition of a possible European opt-in system of monitoring.
Download the full Reflection Document here.