Endorse an effective Disclosure Mechanism for Broadband Internet Services in India
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The contemporary world is showing its ever-increasing dependency on broadband internet services, for all economic and even non-economic activities. Despite such importance, consumers often do not receive the optimal Quality of Service (QoS) and the Quality of Experience (QoE) while accessing broadband internet services in India. With digital access becoming more and more important for the nation, the telecom sector has achieved ~70% 4G network coverage. However, QoS issues remain unaddressed, as revealed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) survey released in August 2017, wherein close to 50% telecom consumers are dissatisfied with broadband internet QoS.
With close to 95% internet users in the country using mobile broadband to access the internet, this dissatisfaction percentage is very significant. The delivery of broadband internet speeds in India is considerably poor and could be further improved. Consumers often complain about the low broadband internet speed as compared to the speed advertised by the operators at the time of sale. Further, they are not informed of the true performance of their connection and other technical parameters such as speed, latency, bandwidth, etc. at the time of signing up for the service. Thus, the choice they are making in selecting the service is not an informed choice.
Use of terms such as ‘up to’ and ‘unlimited’ for internet speed and data limit are misleading. Non-disclosure of provision of substantial reduction in data speed after usage up to a quota arbitrarily determined by the service provider, under the garb of fair usage policy, is also a matter of concern amongst the consumers.
Complicated information disclosures and limited consumer awareness have contributed to this situation. Thus, there should be a mechanism, which mandates operators to disclose the complete and actual set of information in a simple way, so as to support consumers in making an informed decision on selecting a broadband internet service.
The TRAI also needs to strengthen existing regulations, as currently telecom/internet service providers (TSPs/ISPs) are supposed to report network performance numbers at state-level only. Such reporting does not project a nuanced view of broadband internet QoS across different cities and locations in each state.
CUTS International, in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, implemented a project entitled, “Consumer Broadband Labels”, where one of the main goals was to create a narrative for improving the information disclosure mechanism for broadband internet services in India and advocated for adoption of broadband labels as a possible tool to ensure transparency and accountability in Broadband Internet Services in India.
A Broadband Label will help in eradicating information asymmetry and assist consumers in making an informed choice while purchasing a broadband internet connection. It will also result in safeguarding consumers from misleading advertisements, unfair contractual terms, and practices of non-disclosures.
Here is the link to a short-animated education film explaining the concept and need for a Consumer Broadband Label:
Click here to watch a short-animated education film explaining the concept and need for a Consumer Broadband Label.
To read our research report, please click here.
Consumer Broadband Labels
Labels for broadband internet services will provide detailed and standard QoS information to consumers to counter the information asymmetry and disclosure issues arising when multiple TSPs/ISPs and offer the same service. Through this tool, consumers may compare and choose between TSPs/ISPs, so as to be able to make an informed choice.
Such a label may contain details that pertain to pricing, minimum average speed, monthly data allowance - namely, the carrier-defined plan limit after which consumers will incur additional charges, broadband speed and other performance metrics. For example, a consumer has purchased data plan for Rs. 300/- per month, which allows access to 3GB data at 16 Mbps as offered and advertised by a TSP. But eventually, the consumer is receiving a minimum average speed of 1Mbps only. In such a situation, this label would become a reference point for the consumer to question the TSP on the service performance, and also act as a tool to compare similar plans amongst other TSPs.
Broadband label as a disclosure mechanism that is currently prevalent in the US by the Federal Communications Commission through its Open Internet Order in 2015. Ofcom in the UK, through the Voluntary Code of Practice for Broadband Speeds, mandates internet service providers to disclose complete service information on their websites.
Through its public consultation process in 2017, the TRAI also recognised concerns on quality and speed of mobile internet in the country, given that most operators are putting out advertisements with claims of being the fastest, without any commitment on minimum performance benchmarks.
This petition will be targeted at the TRAI, along with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), who has also voiced similar concerns on telecom consumer complaints reaching as high as 40-50 million annually.
How can you contribute?
Sign this petition and share it with your network. The goal is to spread awareness among the broadband internet consumers in India about an immediate need for an effective disclosure mechanism to help consumers make an informed choice while choosing a broadband internet service followed up by a broadband plan of their choice. Also, there is a need to sensitize the regulator to strengthen QoS delivery in the country, through detailed reporting, so that consumers may benefit from high-quality digital access.
Five Points to Tackle India’s 44 million Telecom Complaints
The Quint, July 19, 2018
Telecom policy must FoQoS on quality
Business Line, March 19, 2018
Need to address quality of service issues
Live Mint, October 30, 2017
Effective consumer broadband labels the need of the hour
Media Mama, August 10, 2017
TRAI Initiates Public Consultation on Labelling Broadband Services in India
BWCIO, June 21, 2017
TRAI Exploring Labelled Broadband Services
Communications Today, June 12, 2017
Make labelling mandatory for broadband services
Business Line, April 21, 2017
Consumer rights activists propose ‘broadband labels’
TNN, April 16, 2017
Broadband labelling crucial to empower consumer experience: TRAI
ANI, April 08, 2017
Need for broadband labelling to empower consumer choice: TRAI
UNI, April 07, 2017
Need 'broadband labelling' to safeguard consumer interest: TRAI
PTI, April 07, 2017
Better, faster Net options needed
The Asian Age, February 10, 2017
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