net neutrality (1)

20 Questions.

The Indian telecom regulator has proposed 20 questions for your views on two basic topics: should there be licensing of Internet services, and should there be non-discrimination of Internet access via telecom operators. Download the complicated, 118 page long paper here.

This consultation has two possible implications:

First, if there is licensing of Internet services, or even some Internet services, then it will impact the ability of Internet businesses and startups to remix multiple types of services like messaging and video: a fitness application linked to a band might need a government license in order to allow a customer to message a trainer, or a separate license to offer video within the application. This is what the TRAI calls “OTT licensing”. They held a full day seminar on this issue. Read our coverage from it here.

Second, if telecom operators are allowed to discriminate between different Internet companies or types of Internet services, it will mean that some services which pay them will be faster and others slower, some might be more expensive to access and others cheaper, and some might be more visible or accessible than others. This is what Net Neutrality is about.

– An ISP in Andhra Pradesh was charging separately for P2P services. Read about it here.
– Airtel* wants to charge differently for different services, as does Uninor. Read what they’ve said here.
– Read how Telecom operators defend their attack on Net Neutrality.

Please submit your answers to the TRAI before the 24th April, 2015 at

MediaNama is going to do the following over the next few weeks:
– Publish a simplified version of the complicated TRAI paper so that everyone can understand and participate. We’ll do this next week.
– Respond to queries regarding Net Neutrality so we can help you understand these issues better. We’ll do this next to next week.
– Publish a sample response and if possible, a response generator (we’ll need help with this) so you can submit your views to the TRAI easily.

The 20 questions:

Question 1: Is it too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services, since internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are generally low and there is limited coverage of high-speed broadband in the country? Or, should some beginning be made now with a regulatory framework that could be adapted to changes in the future? Please comment with justifications.

Question 2: Should the OTT players offering communication services (voice, messaging and video call services) through applications (resident either in the country or outside) be brought under the licensing regime? Please comment with justifications.

Question 3: Is the growth of OTT impacting the traditional revenue stream of TSPs? If so, is the increase in data revenues of the TSPs sufficient to compensate for this impact? Please comment with reasons.

Question 4: Should the OTT players pay for use of the TSPs network over and above data charges paid by consumers? If yes, what pricing options can be adopted? Could such options include prices based on bandwidth consumption? Can prices be used as a means product/service differentiation? Please comment with justifications.

Question 5: Do you agree that imbalances exist in the regulatory environment in the operation of OTT players? If so, what should be the framework to address these issues? How can the prevailing laws and regulations be applied to OTT players (who operate in the virtual world) and compliance enforced? What could be the impact on the economy? Please comment with justifications.

Question 6: How should the security concerns be addressed with regard to OTT players providing communication services? What security conditions such as maintaining data records, logs etc. need to be mandated for such OTT players? And, how can compliance with these conditions be ensured if the applications of such OTT players reside outside the country? Please comment with justifications.

Question 7: How should the OTT players offering app services ensure security, safety and privacy of the consumer? How should they ensure protection of consumer interest? Please comment with justifications.

Question 8: In what manner can the proposals for a regulatory framework for OTTs in India draw from those of ETNO, referred to in para 4.23 or the best practices summarised in para 4.29? And, what practices should be proscribed by regulatory fiat? Please comment with justifications.

Question 9: What are your views on net-neutrality in the Indian context? How should the various principles discussed in para 5.47 be dealt with? Please comment with justifications.

Question 10: What forms of discrimination or traffic management practices are reasonable and consistent with a pragmatic approach? What should or can be permitted? Please comment with justifications.

Question 11: Should the TSPs be mandated to publish various traffic management techniques used for different OTT applications? Is this a sufficient condition to ensure transparency and a fair regulatory regime?

Question 12: How should a conducive and balanced environment be created such that TSPs are able to invest in network infrastructure and CAPs are able to innovate and grow? Who should bear the network upgradation costs? Please comment with justifications

Question 13: Should TSPs be allowed to implement non-price based discrimination of services? If so, under what circumstances are such practices acceptable? What restrictions, if any, need to be placed so that such measures are not abused? What measures should be adopted to ensure transparency to consumers? Please comment with justifications.

Question 14: Is there a justification for allowing differential pricing for data access and OTT communication services? If so, what changes need to be brought about in the present tariff and regulatory framework for telecommunication services in the country? Please comment with justifications.

Question 15: Should OTT communication service players be treated as Bulk User of Telecom Services (BuTS)? How should the framework be structured to prevent any discrimination and protect stakeholder interest? Please comment with justification.

Question 16: What framework should be adopted to encourage India-specific OTT apps? Please comment with justifications.

Question 17: If the OTT communication service players are to be licensed, should they be categorised as ASP or CSP? If so, what should be the framework? Please comment with justifications.

Question 18: Is there a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services? Please comment with justifications.

Question 19: What steps should be taken by the Government for regulation of non-communication OTT players? Please comment with justifications.

Question 20: Are there any other issues that have a bearing on the subject discussed?

Image Credit: Flickr user Stephen Melkisethian

Disclosure: Airtel is an advertiser with MediaNama