What to Do When an ISP Breaches Its SLA
Your ISP SLA isn’t a set of “copy-and-paste” T&Cs – it’s a legally enforceable contractual arrangement that should provide adequate reimbursement if breached.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) service-level agreement (SLA) isn’t just a set of “copy-and-paste” Terms and Conditions – it’s a shared, contracted arrangement that has (hopefully) been rigorously assessed by legal professionals on both sides.
So, what happens if your ISP doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain? Here’s a guide on what to do in the event of an ISP SLA breach.
What’s Covered in an ISP SLA
As a quick reminder, an ISP service-level agreement (SLA) contractually defines the level of services and standards an ISP must deliver to a customer. If an ISP fails to meet these benchmarks, the provider is subject to penalties, such as service credits or refunds, that are specified in the SLA. Read a more in-depth definition of ISP SLAs in this blog.
For simplicity, ISPs prefer to offer a “blanket” service-level agreement that provides all their customers with the same rights and level of recourse. As an example, you can see Comcast Business’s general and product-specific terms and conditions, including SLAs, here. However, many enterprise-level clients will take great pains to hammer out an SLA specific to their needs, negotiating a complex set of specified commitments and conditions. The larger the buyer, the more likely it is that this occurs.
Broadly speaking, you can expect an ISP service-level agreement to offer protection around the following areas.
Class of service provided, e.g., connection bandwidth, hardware, and network maintenance
Performance levels for reliability and customer support
Network monitoring and usage statistics
Processes for reporting network issues
Schedules for response and resolution of issues
Penalties for non-compliance
To properly characterize performance, the SLA will define terms of performance such as service availability / uptime, service outage, service degradation, mean time to respond (MTTR), packet loss, latency, and jitter.
The most common reason for an ISP SLA breach is loss of service. For dedicated internet or WAN services, it’s reasonable to expect levels of uptime at > 99.9%, and this is often a specified SLA requirement.
A word of warning, though, if you’re seeking to rectify an ISP SLA breach related to loss of service (or any other breach), it’s important to check how the SLA specifies this metric should be measured.
If your uptime is measured across a full year (rather than monthly or quarterly), it’s possible that your outage falls within the limits of what’s acceptable on an annual basis. Similarly, it’s worth reading your SLA to ensure you understand how each service level is measured and when a breach is defined to have occurred.
How to Respond to an ISP SLA Breach
Fully document the breach. If there’s been a period, or multiple periods of service downtime, ensure you record the exact length of time, as well as the date and time. If there are late or absent deliverables, such as a scheduled maintenance service or a network monitoring report, then record what’s been omitted, as well as how long it took to receive the overdue service. Any evidence that downtime / another breach occurred is worth logging as well (network monitoring tool screenshots as an example).
Make sure it’s the ISP’s fault. Before you get litigious, check your facts – was the outage the carrier’s responsibility, as per the terms of your ISP SLA?
No matter how dedicated your service provider is, there are some circumstances that are beyond their control. These are a few areas that won’t be covered by your ISP SLA:
Loss of commercial power at the site
Customer hardware (i.e., router) or infrastructure (cabling) malfunction
“Acts of God”, such as fire, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. (although coverage for these can be negotiated at enterprise level)
Cybersecurity incidents, including malware/network data breaches and ransomware attacks
Report the SLA breach. Reach out to your ISP account manager, representative, or support group. This will be the most painful part of the process, as you might need to chase this via calls to a 1-800 number. Means of outreach for a breach should be specified in your ISP T&Cs. We recommend scheduling a weekly follow-up call or email with your account rep to ensure your ISP prioritizes your SLA breach, and repeating this process until you’ve received your credit or rebate in full (alternatively, let Lightyear handle it for you and guide you through the process).
Make sure you’re properly reimbursed. Your ISP SLA should set out clearly the form any compensation should take – this is typically restricted to either service-level credit against your account balance, or additional termination rights and compensation (in the event of continuous breaches or substandard service).
There should also be a scale included in your ISP service-level agreement that specifies how much compensation is appropriate to the severity, duration, or type of breach you’ve experienced.
When choosing your ISP, it’s important to pay careful attention to what your SLA includes or excludes. If you don’t make sure you’re properly protected from the start, you could find yourself attempting to operate your business while tied to an SLA that leaves you vulnerable to suboptimal service.
Acting after an ISP SLA breach doesn’t have to be a hassle – especially if you’re utilizing software like Lightyear to automate processes around things like this.
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