The telecoms industry may be living in fantasy world if it thinks it has mastered the collection and billing of data traffic. Living in denial is one thing, but when push comes to shove, how many ISPs, in particular, have definitive volumes of data for each individual account?
If a recent report from the USA is any indication, not many.
GigaOM reported that of seven broadband ISPs audited by NetForecast only one, Comcast, had the courage to make the report public.
President of NetForecast, Peter Sevcik, stated that there was only one other client he was willing to certify.
The concept of measuring data usage with so-called ‘meters’, is a result of the introduction of broadband ‘caps.’
In the era of unlimited plans there was hardly a need to track usage down to individual account level, and ISPs have had to adapt accordingly.
Apparently some have done it well, others not.
It would not be a big deal except that most ISPs apply surcharges when a broadband cap is reached.
Customers expect to be told when they are nearing their caps so they can alter their usage patterns or choose to pay the excess.
But if many of these ISPs are not certifiable, then it raises questions whether they have the capability to meter accurately, or are even metering at all.
If it is the latter, how are they able to determine their customer’s data usage and how are they are charging for excess usage?
More importantly, how can they prove this to their customers?
Even the regulators may be casting a wary eye over a sector of the market that doesn’t normally attract as much attention as its mobile cousins.
More astute customers can easily monitor all the traffic traversing their own home network and if they start to question their ISP, who will be the arbiter?
Are we about to see an explosion in ‘broadband bill shock’ headlines, like those that have plagued data roaming on mobile networks?
Whatever wireline broadband ISPs are using as ‘meters’ they will still come up with the same issues voice service providers have to face and surmount with regard to business assurance.
It is no longer simply a matter of ensuring that all revenues are accounted for but that services are being delivered and monitored constantly to ensure accurate tracking of all usage.
There is no replacement for internal and external audits, like those carried out by the Big Four, but ISPs will need to have systems in place that audit everything involved in measuring and charging for customer services.
Notifying customers as they approach caps is only the first part of a service that will be demanded.
Accurate and timely ('real-timely to be exact) information must also be available to customers on call.
Get ready for some potentially damaging news stories emanating from reports like that from GigaOM.
Attention will swing to ISPs and there will be people out there only too happy to catch out any unsuspecting broadband providers.
Risk mitigation through the adoption of an Enterprise Business Assurance program is key to prevention.
Ask any mobile CSP.