The internet customer’s experience must be put at the centre

Consumers are dissatisfied with broadband quality, and it is not getting any better. Germany is ready to legislate internet performance, and Norwegian consumer authorities have called this a good idea. It is time to get involved as an industry!

To the vast majority of consumers, wifi is the internet. We at Eye Networks estimate that 40 percent of customers simply have a wifi solution that is too poor to achieve satisfactory performance. Our COO Linda Firveld commented on this in an interview with Inside Telecom in January 2022.

404 Industry Standard Not Found

The interview was followed up with a letter to the editor in Telecom Revy where Firveld asked the National Communications Authority (Nkom) to call a meeting with broadband developers and the Norwegian Consumer Protection Authority about better broadband measurements and a possible new industry standard – the full article is also available below.

We are happy to note that Nkom say in their reply that they will call a meeting and we look forward to further dialogue!

Since the article was published, we also note that the old industry standard is now completely gone from the Consumer Protection Authority’s websites.

Wifi Is Your Business

At Eye Networks, we have no doubts – good wifi is good business, and the internet provider that does not put the customer’s experience at the center now is heading for trouble. We are ready to do our part!

The topic is of course also on the agenda for this year’s Shared Insights, our professional days for customers, suppliers and other partners, which will be held April 25-26.

Op Ed: We Need Better Broadband Measurements

Linda Firveld, COO at Eye Networks
Linda Firveld, Eye Networks COO

An earlier version of this article was published in Telecom Revy 24. January 2022. Some dates and abbreviations have been updated.

We need to have a conversation. About broadband, Berec, net neutrality, net quality and German legislative proposals, and what all of this means for Norway. Invite us, Nkom!

By Linda Firveld, COO, Eye Networks AS

The association of European supervisory authorities for electronic communications, BEREC, wants all countries to measure internet quality in the same way. They have proposed a new methodology for this (PDF), and the proposal was open for consultation until 28 January 2022.

Although the proposal is new, the discussion about internet quality is old. Right now, the volume in the Norwegian debate is increasing There are several reasons for that.

Dissatisfied Customers

Let’s start with the basics: Users are annoyed by their broadband. According to the 2021 survey by EPSI, which has measured customer satisfaction with the industry for 15 years, the quality of broadband is too poor. A mind-boggling 40 percent of private customers are dissatisfied.

Although Norwegian broadband companies are constantly both expanding and modernizing their networks customers are less satisfied now than before. There is a gap between needs and expectations on the one hand, and perceived quality on the other.

We have never had more knowledge about end users than we do now, and broadband technology has never been better. Nevertheless, EPSI sounds the alarm: 40 percent of customers who have complained state that their problem is not resolved.

Forced Price Reduction?

What are the consequences of this dissatisfaction? Many customers have no choice, they have to stay with their provider. It is perhaps logical, then, to look at the price instead, as German authorities are doing.

The Germans see an obvious link between broadband speed and net neutrality. If customers do not get the capacity advertised for their subscription, they do not have to pay full price either. At least that is the opinion of the German regulator, Bundesnetzagentur, which held the proposal for consultation a short time ago.

Those of us in the internet provider industry know that the difference between German and Norwegian broadband is enormous. In September 2020, 4.9 percent of German households subscribed to fiber-based broadband (source: FTTH Council) – the country ranks extremely low in a European fiber context. In Norway, fiber penetration at the same time was above 50 percent. Perhaps you think this will cause German ideas to bounce off Norwegian legislators?

Then you haven’t read what the Consumer Council said November 30 2021 : “There are clear advantages to threshold values ​​for price reductions, as proposed in Germany, as long as the thresholds are reasonable for the consumer. It removes a discretionary element in the assessment and will make the application of the rules easier for both providers and consumers”.

Hiding Data

The Norwegian Communications Authority (Nkom) has developed the service. Broadband customers are encouraged to measure their transmission capacity here, and many do just that. The measurements give Nkom a unique insight into the state of Norwegian broadband.

The authority will not share this insight with us without further ado. At the same time that Nkom publishes statistics based on measurements of the mobile network, they withhold the same figures from the fixed network. I don’t know why. BEREC goes to great lengths to recommend the opposite in its “Net Neutrality Regulatory Assessment Methodology” (point 6.5).

On October 7, 2021, Nkom director Pål Espen Wien stated that the average broadband speed in Norwegian households is 230 Mbit/s. The figure is based on what customers subscribe to, not actual measurements.

The international service Speedtest publishes the results of speed measurements carried out by Norwegian users. These figures show that the Norwegian public broadband maintains a speed of 162 Mbit/s. When Nkom does not publish its measurements, it is tempting to hold 230 Mbit/s up against 162 Mbit/s and note that something is not right.

That’s an unfair comparison, you might think. Well, EPSI says that every third Norwegian customer thinks the broadband speed they get is not in accordance with their agreement.

An Industry Standard Exists

Remember the industry standard on marketing and standard terms for consumer internet access? It is on the Norwegian Consumer Protection Authority’s website . Not that you need to look too closely at it, because it is largely out of date / superseded by other guides.

Maybe we need a new standard. We certainly need to discuss the initiatives from the EU and what these mean for Norway. We need to discuss how net neutrality is linked to the quality of our broadband, and how the user experience should be measured and understood. Since it is wifi that carries the vast majority of our online experiences, we could call it a wifi meeting.

Nkom should call this meeting, and ensure that the broadband developers and the Norwegian Consumer Protection Authority are involved. Together we can draw up some rules of the game, agree on the measurement parameters, and assess whether we need a new industry standard.