Canadians may use the Internet more than anyone else, but our awareness of actual Internet performance and operational infrastructure is lagging.
While consumers have high expectations about advertised Internet speed claims, they do not get enough information from Internet Service Providers on which to judge them accurately, according to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s (PIAC) latest report: “Transparency in Broadband Advertising to Canadian Consumers.”
The report examines broadband Internet advertisements such as commonly used “up to” speed claims and sought consumers’ views on whether these advertisements are clear.
Either way, it seems, Canadians spend more for broadband speed than users in 19 other countries, says a new report from CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, and we spend more time online than other folks, up to an average of 45 hours per month.
CIRA has also recently stated that the state of Internet infrastructure in Canada is “not acceptable,” referring to another report that nnotes among the world’s 350 or so Internet Echange points, only two are in Canada to support intra-national data transmissions.
“Canadian consumers expect the maximum speed advertised will be achievable at their home connection,” according to Janet Lo, Legal Counsel at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and co-author of the new Internet report, particularly when an Internet package advertises ‘maximum speeds’.
PIAC’s survey gauged consumer expectations towards “up to” speed advertisements by walking consumers through a series of sample advertisements to assess whether consumer impressions shifted after reading a disclaimer about the speed claim achievability. In each scenario, a majority of consumers mistakenly believed they would achieve the maximum advertised speed, no matter the style or clarity of the “up to” speed disclaimer.
“Internet service providers provide very little information to consumers about technical factors and their effect on the achievability of the advertised speed claim,” noted Lo. “The fine print is confusing to consumers and does not tell consumers how to check the actual speeds they are receiving.”
Further complicating matters is a lack of consumer awareness. PIAC’s survey showed 75% of respondents did not know which speed tier to which they subscribe, even though 83% of consumers identified download speed as very important or somewhat important when choosing an ISP for their home. PIAC’s report therefore suggests that consumers are not fully and effectively informed about internet speed and performance claims even though they have high expectations with respect to the achievability of promised “up to” Internet speeds.
PIAC’s report recommends that ISPs provide more complete and precise disclosure about various aspects of Internet performance and the reliability of these claims. It also recommends that ISPs ensure disclosures are prominent in advertising and in consumer contracts.
PIAC’s report recommends that the Competition Bureau of Canada consider specific enforcement guidelines focused on how advertising claims about internet speed performance are conveyed to consumers. The report further recommends that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) monitor the retail internet market by collecting performance data on Canadian retail internet service speeds and comparing that data to advertised claims.
The full report is available for download at: http://www.piac.ca/telecom/canadian_consumers_need_better_disclosure_about_internet_speed_and_performance_claims/
PIAC received funding from Industry Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations to prepare the report. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or the Government of Canada.
For more Mediacaster Magazine coverage related to this topic, please see:
Lack of Internet Capacity Threatens Canadian Data Transmissions
Rogers Cited by CRTC for Internet Throttling
CRTC Wants to Speed Up Internet Slowdown Complaints Process
Internet Throttling Threatens Privacy