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What would you like your telco to tell you about your
broadband connection?

I ask because the TCF is currently reaching the end of a
lengthy process to figure out what to put on advertising and point of sale
material (among other places) in order to help customers compare like with

Currently we talk about price, data capacity and sometimes
speed – although not specifically as the Commerce Commission has always
insisted that if you advertise a product as being able to do something, that
product should be able to do just that. Tricky thing, that, when you’re talking
about broadband speeds on a copper network.

There are plenty of other metrics that customers have asked
about over the years. Contention ratio is one – how many other people will I be
sharing this connection with?  Is it 20:1
or 50:1 or worse? What about committed information rates (CIR) and maximum
speed? What about international capacity – will I find myself unable to connect
to my favourite international site because the ISP’s international link is

Then there are what I think of as the “asterisk conditions”.
You know the ones – “reserve the right to manage the service” and “acceptable
use policy may be applied” and possibly even “we don’t let you use your connection
for just anything, you know”.

What would you like to see listed? We can’t have an inexhaustible
list – the model we’re working to is the ticket on display in a used-car’s
window on the lot – but I’d like to hear from members and others about what
would be of use.

4 replies
  1. KiwiRadarMan
    KiwiRadarMan says:

    I’m sure like many other readers of this blog that we all act as ‘techos’ for our wider circles of friends, family and acquaintances. I’ve noticed how over the years the bbq conversations have moved on as technology advances. This summer there were 2 topics, crap broadband and inadequate data caps!
    Done right a disclosure scheme should deal with both of these, I’m amused by the huge desire to hide CIR’s from consumers, because your CIR (committed information rate – what your service provider really provides unlike the headline rate of your connection) explains both issues, your broadband is crap because your CIR is really 36kb/s (thats right mediocre dial-up) and your data cap is a function of what you can fit down a pipe that size.

    Once you add in things like contention and upstream bandwidth I find most people get it and start to understand why things like UFB are actually really important (the base CIR for UFB is 2.5mb/s and can be set higher for more $$$!)

    As the DSL’s have improved it has become far easier to consume data (aided and abetted by YouTube, Minecraft and Skype in my household) Pretty soon 1TB per month won’t seem too unreasonable!

    I agree that most consumers don’t care about plumbing they just want a smooth seamless experience (again youtube skype etc) but they need to know why they find their broadband experience isn’t what was promised!

    I fear a sticker system won’t help if it is too ‘carrier’ centric but it could be fun to show things like ‘how long your data will last at the headline speed’ or ‘how many people am I sharing the upstream links with’ or ‘what does traffic shaping mean?’

    This is an important initiative and it needs to be done right.

  2. v1di0t
    v1di0t says:

    Paul – start with the basics:

    PIR, CIR, Average Latency, Static IP, Network Availability %, Downtime in past 12 months, etc

  3. Phil Stevens
    Phil Stevens says:

    Most people may not care about CIR, but they should. One of the problems with broadband is that it’s sold as tantamount to a nailed-up dedicated connection when it’s not. Telecom/Chorus are only obligated to provide 32Kbps on a residential ADSL circuit. That’s middling dialup territory and whatever you get beyond that is gravy — so count your lucky stars.

    We need to engage and educate broadband consumers so that they do actually know the difference between a huge pipe that runs full 24×7 and an equally huge one that only carries a trickle sometimes. Service level targets for latency and jitter are important, too, since lots more end users are using applications which are sensitive to these factors: VOIP, video conferencing and gaming, not to mention web apps with heavy client-side processing.

    So a combined score might give a cursory overview, but more weighting should be given to sustained data rate than instantaneous, and more to low jitter than low ping times.

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    To make it easy for consumers, perhaps a simple graphic much like the Fuel Efficiency stickers we see on cars now, or the star ratings we see on electrical appliances. Most people don’t care about CIR, speed etc, they just want a reliable connection that works. A combination of the above could output a score (out of 100) based on how they score across the board. An upside of this would encourage ISPs to put more effort into customer service, reliability, uptime etc etc.

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