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Report suggests solutions to internet issues

Making recommendations: A working group has prepared a report on issues relating to the quality of broadband service on the Island. The report is now being analysed by the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda

Residents concerned they are not receiving the level of internet speed and capacity they are paying for, could have structured avenues for redress if recommendations from a new report are put into effect.

The perceived slow connection speeds and high cost of internet service in Bermuda has been identified as a perennial issue in market surveys.

Now a high-level working group has delivered a report on broadband quality of service to the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda (RAB), which oversees the telecommunications sector.

The report includes recommendations aimed at driving forward improvements to broadband internet service delivery and quality.

One idea to address the difference between a provider’s advertised internet speed and the actual speed received by the customer, is to make it mandatory for a customer to be given a “speed card” when their service is activated. The card will show the expected line quality the customer can expect.

The report’s recommendation states: “The speed number cannot be close to the subscription level just below.”

As an example, a customer paying for 6 Mbps should not be receiving only four. If a customer complaint is made to the RAB regarding slow internet speed, the carrier will supply the authority with the actual speed test number of a customer’s account.

The report further recommends that providers of a service consistently below the acceptable standard of speed should lose some revenue, through a line downgrade, and potentially refund customers.

However, one of the big takeaways from the report is the need to educate the public about factors outside the control of service providers that can impact their internet connection speeds and reliability.

It also noted that no regulation or standard exists, either overseas or locally, that reference availability and uptime for the consumer market.

The report recommends that customers should be reimbursed on a pro-rata monthly basis for all outages that exceed the established standard for uptime per month. The report describes that uptime standard as being 95 per cent per calendar month.

Among other recommendations, it is suggested there should be a formalised process to deal with consumer complaints and issues, and where necessary ISPs and access providers communicate with each other to investigate and resolve complaints.

The working group behind the report was together for about six months. It featured a number of top-level executives and managers from various telecoms companies, together with Bermuda Government representatives.

The working group was co-chaired by Anchor Investment Management’s chief financial officer Nathan Kowalski and Bermuda CableVision’s Alan Smith.

Mr Kowalski said the process had been challenging due to the differing opinions expressed and the complicated telecommunications landscape, but it had also been educational to see what other countries and jurisdictions did to address internet issues.

While there is no guarantee that anything in the report will be adopted by the RAB, Mr Kowalski said it was a starting point for addressing areas of concern.

“It’s a good exercise to get the ball rolling, to understand how everything works and to get input from stakeholders,” he said.

Kyle Masters, interim chief executive officer of the RAB, said: “It was an opportunity for end users and providers to discuss face to face what the issues are, and come up with recommendations for the authority.”

He said the RAB would look at the recommendations to see which, if any, should be implemented.

The authority is putting together a working plan for the next operational year, which starts in April, and will analyse recommendations from the working group’s report.

The public will be given an opportunity to comment on the RAB’s plan when it is put online during a consultation period.

Mr Masters thanked the volunteer members of the working group for their efforts in producing the service report.

Grant Gibbons, Minister for Economic Development, said he believed efforts are under way to address concerns regarding internet service and speeds.

“There has been clear public comment on these issues, and they need to be looked at. This report is a good start,” he said.

• See related media link for The Broadband Quality of Service Report