Net neutrality? Meh. But don't you dare slow my video streaming

EU study finds hifalutin language interests folk less than practical effects


Advisors to the European Commission have found that consumers do grasp the principles of net neutrality and make choices based on it — even when they don’t really know how traffic management, which is key to net neutrality, works.

“Attributes of an internet access service offer that relate to traffic management and net neutrality play a significant role in consumers’ purchase choice decisions," according to BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications.

BEREC bases this assertion on a study it carried out in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece and Sweden.

Respondents were asked to choose between pairs of hypothetical internet access service offers with varying combinations of price, speed and traffic management.

Five of the ten attributes employed were concerned with traffic management and net neutrality.

BEREC said its descriptions included “brief, clear, effects-based explanations” of the end-users’ experience such as “slowed-down video streaming” or “prioritised VoIP”.

“This suggests that clear, transparent and effects-based information can be effective in helping users to take traffic management practices into account when choosing an internet access service," it said.

"It's encouraging that, in the research, it did not prove necessary for consumers to have been educated about the technical nature and operation of traffic management to be able to take account of relevant ISP practices in choosing a service provider," added the report.

A majority of respondents – between 70-86 per cent – agreed with the statement: “If my internet provider decreased the speed for video streaming unless I paid extra, I would switch provider.”

Indeed, video-streaming was one of the most significant factors in the responses.

Zero-rating, where consumers are able to access certain content, services or applications without it counting towards any monthly data caps, was seen as most desirable for video services – particularly when coupled with a low data cap.

The report shows that it has “limited effect” when teamed with a 50GB cap.

Between 60-80 per cent of respondents were happy for ISPs to manage data traffic in order to keep their net experience stable, but slightly fewer, 50-70 per cent, were happy for applications to be prioritised for users who pay extra for this type of service. ®

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