The utility argument — Making a case for broadband SLAs

Zachary S. Bischof*, Fabián E. Bustamante*, and Rade Stanojevic†.
In Proc. of PAM, March 2017.
(*) Northwestern University (†) Qatar Computing Research Institute

Department of Computer Science
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL 60208, USA


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.