In choosing an internet subscription, connection speed is one of the key criteria. Based on reports received by the Consumer Agency, consumers are still being given misleading information regarding the speed of wireless internet services offered over the mobile phone network.
The actual speed of a wireless broadband connection often turns out to be far from what was promised. When service quality and features have not been clearly defined in their entirety, assessing when the service is defective becomes challenging. Consumers have found it difficult to appeal to service defects in practice and exercise their rights.
The majority of broadband connections are still offered over fixed lines. Use of wireless broadband services has increased in the past year and the problems associated with them have been reflected in the increased number of complaints filed with consumer authorities in various parts of Finland. On occasion, too many subscriptions have been sold relative to available capacity, network coverage maps have not been accurate enough or the salesperson has otherwise given too extensive general promises regarding network coverage.
The Consumer Agency sent the industry a set of guidelines on the marketing and contract terms of broadband subscriptions in June 2008. This has been followed by subsequent negotiations with individual operators. At the same time, there are pending legislative amendments which are expected to improve the situation.
Minimum connection speed offered to everyone set at 1 Mbps
The Parliament recently passed a legislative amendment which stipulates that the connection speed to be offered to every citizen at a reasonable price will be set by a Ministry of Transport and Communications decree. In the first phase the speed of internet subscriptions would be set at one megabit per second, and subsequent decrees could be issued to increase the minimum connection speed as technology develops.
The new decree related to the EU's universal service regulation can now also be used to set a reasonable range of variation for actual speeds provided in the universal service framework. The preamble notes that in the future it will be justified to set a minimum speed for subscriptions and a rule where e.g. a temporary 25% reduction in connection speed could be deemed acceptable.
The regulations on universal services are meant to ensure the availability of telephone and data transfer services throughout the country. The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority is charged with appointing universal service providers for certain regions. FICORA last appointed universal service providers in March 2009, but the recently passed amendment calls for a reassessment of appointment needs.
What remains necessary, however, is that actual connection speeds correspond with the promises made or the minimum speed set through the universal service regulation. The current level of service, particularly with wireless subscriptions, has not always lived up to promises, and service levels are not sufficiently defined in contract terms.