23rd European Regional Conference of the International Telecommunication Society, Vienna, Austria, 1-4 July 2012
Network neutrality and alleged discriminatory practices on the part of ISPs regarding the transmission of Internet data packets has been the subject of notable scholarly discussion and appears to be a widespread phenomenon. However, it is noteworthy that actual consumer discrimination has only been proven in a small number of individual case studies. Hence, we aim to provide solid evidence for discriminatory behaviour of ISPS in our in-depth study. This lack of overwhelming evidence is not, as we assume, the result of an absence of discriminatory behaviour - on the contrary it may be whittled down to a number of grounds: the absence of studies comparing services offered by ISPs, the existence of high switching costs between operators accruing to consumers, and a lack of awareness on the part of consumer of the putative discriminatory measures, given the information asymmetry between ISP and consumers, where the consumer is not in a position, being able to distinguish between an impaired quality of service and potential discrimination behaviour by the ISP. The paper at hand examines ISPs' traffic management measures and determines whether such practices breach the ISP's contract with the consumer. Relying on an examination of services provided by European ISPs (France, Germany and Italy) we can conclude that data traffic is subject to discriminatory management. Our investigative model is based on M-Lab data (Glasnost Test) and related processing algorithms provided by The Network is Aware project. In order to corroborate our findings that ISPs are breaching their own contractual service agreements, the results regarding discriminatory measures are compared with the contractual General Terms and Conditions (GTC) as agreed between the ISPs and consumers...
Network neutrality regulation General Terms and Conditions telecommunications user discrimination