Disclosures on Network Management Practices and Performance of Broadband Service
41 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2017 Last revised: 15 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 14, 2017
This research addresses the following question: “Do customers understand the implications of network management practices and performance characteristics disclosed by broadband Internet access service providers?” Disclosures are required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its Open Internet ruling. Court support for transparency requirements was not based on reclassification of BIAS providers as common carriers; thus, these requirements are likely to remain even if a new FCC goes ahead with its proposal to undo the 2015 classification.
The research is based on four test surveys answered by 888 U.S. participants on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (M-Turk) based on disclosures as of October 2016. Participants answered questions on one of four surveys, with questions appropriate to the disclosures of: AT&T, Comcast, Cox or T-Mobile. M-Turk participants were randomly assigned one of the four surveys.
Based on a logit regression model, there is no disclosure consistently better among the four disclosures included in the study. Depending on the different concepts addressed by the survey, e.g., network congestion, speed, latency, end-to-end connection, among others, some disclosures may be better than others, with no single one being overall the best.
The disclosures fail to achieve the goal of informing the consumer so that he/she can make better choices. Less than 10% of the participants in the survey, comprehend all the network management practices implemented by broadband providers. The consequences of complex practices, such as buffer tuning and Binge On™, are not understood by more than 90% of the participants in the survey.
Thirty percent of the participants do not understand what network congestion is. Participants tend to associate network congestion with how they individually use their broadband service rather than how a group of users is collectively using their provider’s local infrastructure. They incorrectly believe that network congestion depends on what application they are personally using, like video streaming, and not with periods of peak usage by multiple subscribers.
Based on the results and conclusions in this study, disclosures should be re-designed to achieve their objective, i.e., informing the customer of the provider’s network management practices and performance characteristics in a language and format that customers can understand so as to make informed decisions.
Keywords: Transparency, Disclosures, Open Internet, Network Management Practices, Performance Characteristics, Broadband
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