The Value of Network Neutrality to European Consumers
26 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2015 Last revised: 27 Aug 2015
Date Written: August 15, 2015
BEREC’s recognition of network neutrality as a key policy priority in 2010 has led to various related activities, for instance a fact-finding on traffic management practices and an assessment of IP interconnection. In consequence, European regulators have gained a solid basis for determining next steps. However, this is only the case for network neutrality questions related to the supply side of Internet Access Service (IAS). The demand side has been tackled to a much lesser extent. How do consumers understand and conceptualize network neutrality? Do consumers value aspects of net neutrality in their preferences for IAS offers? These questions drive the consumer research, for which BEREC commissioned an extensive study.
One particularly relevant research objective for the study was to understand the effect that information has on consumer behavior. This addresses this research objective and sheds light on the relevance of qualitative insights in developing meaningful consumer information on the complex subject of network neutrality. Furthermore, the paper describes the effects of such consumer information as measured by a representative online survey in four European countries (CR, CZ, EL SE).
In the survey, one half of respondents received an information package on network neutrality and its effects, whilst the other half did not. Our results show clearly that respondents who received the information package had a significantly better understanding of the issue of network neutrality and its effects on their quality of experience. However, this additional knowledge did not affect their choices for IAS products nor their attitudes towards network neutrality.
Our paper highlights the importance of mixed-methods consumer research guiding policymaking and regulation in particular with respect to topics such as network neutrality that immediately affect consumers’ quality of experience. Furthermore, our paper illustrates that consumer information should use vivid animation in order to be effective. Furthermore, we found that network neutrality-related product attributes play an important role in consumer purchase decisions for IAS products. Given the complex nature of the subject, stakeholders and among them in particular ISPs who want to bring new IAS offers to market will need to understand consumer behavior and preferences in more depth.
Keywords: network neutrality, net neutrality, consumer, Internet access, focus group, conjoint choice, Europe
JEL Classification: C42, C91, D12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation