Friday, November 12, 2010

Singapore - Regulator proposing to require ISPs to announce average or expected speeds

[asia one] SURFING websites should be a smooth-enough experience for bank executive Yong Choon Leong, especially on his speedy 10Mbps home broadband plan.

But, since the start of this year, the 35-year-old's connection speeds have been more sluggish than expected.

Therefore, a proposal made yesterday by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), for Internet-service providers to advertise average or expected speeds for their broadband plans, is a welcome move for users like Mr Yong.

The proposal applies to both fixed-line and mobile-broadband plans.

Currently, service providers - including the three telcos Sing- Tel, StarHub and M1 - advertise "up to" or maximum speeds of their plans. Consumers have long complained that they do not enjoy advertised speeds.

Mr Yong said: "For average Joes like me, we take the advertised maximum speeds at face value and expect to get that.

When I didn't get the speed, I was quite disappointed."

In a consultation paper released on its website, IDA said that its proposal for advertising average speeds "will provide added transparency to end-users, with respect to Internet access speeds they can expect".

It added that this would "further aid (end-users) in their choice of Internet-access service, and minimise disputes".

The proposal is one of several matters discussed in IDA's consultation paper to seek feedback on network neutrality.

Network neutrality is the concept that all Internet content should be treated equally.

Under it, no Internet content or services should be discriminated, such as being blocked or slowed.

The issue arose after some American service providers blocked certain online applications like Internet calls. IDA said it does not allow providers to block legitimate and legal online content and services.

Content that can be blocked includes material prohibited for online broadcast here like those depicting nudity.

The agency said that peer-to-peer activities "can be a legitimate form of file transfer" but it recognised that providers might need to manage such traffic to ensure a reasonable online experience for other users.

It said that following the feedback it gets when the consultation ends on Dec 16, IDA might enhance or relax regulations.

All three telcos said they would reply to IDA in due time.

A StarHub spokesman said: "We don't believe that net neutrality is currently a major issue in Singapore today."

Mr Alex Chau, senior research manager with research firm IDC Asia-Pacific, said the service providers in Singapore are unlikely to advertise average speeds for mobile-broadband plans. This stems from how mobile broadband has far less bandwidth than fixed-line broadband, he said.

But Mr Chau said Singapore is likely ahead of most countries in the Asia-Pacific, even the United States and Europe, on how to treat online content equally.

"Singapore could become the first country to pass network- neutrality laws because its Government is more stable and does not have freedom-of speech concerns, compared to countries like the US," he said.

Reveal real surfing speeds: IDA

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