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The Utility Argument – Making a Case for Broadband SLAs

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Passive and Active Measurement (PAM 2017)

Part of the book series: Lecture Notes in Computer Science ((LNCCN,volume 10176))

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Most residential broadband services are described in terms of their maximum potential throughput rate, often advertised as having speeds “up to X Mbps”. Though such promises are often met, they are fairly limited in scope and, unfortunately, there is no basis for an appeal if a customer were to receive compromised quality of service. While this ‘best effort’ model was sufficient in the early days, we argue that as broadband customers and their devices become more dependent on Internet connectivity, we will see an increased demand for more encompassing Service Level Agreements (SLA).

In this paper, we study the design space of broadband SLAs and explore some of the trade-offs between the level of strictness of SLAs and the cost of delivering them. We argue that certain SLAs could be offered almost immediately with minimal impact on retail prices, and that ISPs (or third parties) could accurately infer the risk of offering SLA to individual customers – with accuracy comparable to that in the car or credit insurance industry – and price the SLA service accordingly.

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  1. 1.

    Some ISPs already try this if in coarser terms; e.g., Comcast’s “What type of Internet connection is right for you?”

  2. 2.

    This effectively means that if the service was ‘unavailable’ for 34 h in a month (approximately 5% of the month) the user gets the monthly subscription for free.

  3. 3.

    The key cost for the ISP selling an SLA is the loss of revenue when the SLA is broken. Hence the stricter SLA the higher expected cost for the ISP which may be passed down to the end-user in the form of higher premium/monthly subscription.


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We thank our shepherd Monia Ghobadi and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation through Award CNS 1218287.

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Correspondence to Zachary S. Bischof .

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Bischof, Z.S., Bustamante, F.E., Stanojevic, R. (2017). The Utility Argument – Making a Case for Broadband SLAs. In: Kaafar, M., Uhlig, S., Amann, J. (eds) Passive and Active Measurement. PAM 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 10176. Springer, Cham.

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