Friday, 30 December 2011

End user perspective: BEREC Guidelines on Transparency in the scope of Net Neutrality

The previous blog post referred to the scope and structure of the transparency guidelines approved for publication by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC):

BEREC Guidelines on Transparency in the scope of Net Neutrality: Best practices and recommended approaches BoR (11) 67 (December 2011; 69 pages)

Chapter II promised to deal with requirements for a net neutrality transparency policy and states, as a general principle, that the end users’ perspective is paramount. The guidelines discuss how to best adapt a transparency policy to net neutrality-related issues, in particular by taking into account different types of end users and usages.

End user perspective

In Chapter II the guidelines discuss major requirements for a net neutrality transparency policy, identifying a set of criteria (page 14):

A fully effective transparency policy (which can be composed of various approaches and measures) should aim at satisfying all of the following characteristics:

- Accessibility
- Understandability
- Meaningfulness
- Comparability
- Accuracy
These criteria are then explained.

Horse's mouth or third party?

The guidelines discuss two approaches to providing end users with information. The direct approach means that the Internet Service Provider offers the user information directly. This route is compulsory.

The complementary, indirect approach means that third parties – such as technical experts in the Internet community, price comparison sites , content providers or NRAs - provide information.

The NRAs have to devise the obligations of the service providers in a proportionate manner, bearing in mind the costs of regulation. Proportionality is discussed on pages 19-20.

Offer and limits

Discussing various aspects of transparency, the guidelines conclude (page 24):

Finding: for net neutrality transparency, information is needed on both the general scope of the offer and on the limitations (general and specific) of the offer.

Traffic management

Chapter II ends with the following finding (page 26):

Finding: Common terms of references about aspects of the Internet access service, including where some agreement can be reached on traffic management measures considered reasonable, can help to make the transparent information to end users simpler, and therefore can make a transparency policy more effective.

Ralf Grahn