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TRAI extends deadline for net neutrality paper comments to 12th April

Telecom regulator TRAI has once again extended the deadline for sending in comments for its recent consultation paper on net neutrality up to 12th April 2017. Counter comments can now be submitted by 26th April 2017. Last month, the deadline for comment submission was extended up until March 15th. Written submissions can be sent to advqos@trai.gov.in.

The consultation paper primarily looks at how “non-discriminatory access” to content on the Internet could be ensured. It also discusses various issues of Net Neutrality including traffic management, throttling of speeds, and preferential treatment of content and apps on the Internet and how these principles are applicable within the Indian context. In the ongoing consultation, TRAI also asks if preferential treatment of content or throttling can be allowed in case a user demands it, despite the fact that it banned differential pricing in February 2016.

Note that this is TRAI’s 5th consultation paper issued under net neutrality in the last two years:
-In May 2016, it issued a pre-consultation paper looking to provide a detailed regulatory framework for VoIP and messaging apps.
-In the same month, TRAI issued a consultation paper examining free Internet models Airtel Zero and Free Basics.
– In December 2015, it consulted on differential pricing for TSPs, asking whether telcos should be allowed to charge differently for different websites. TRAI then passed a regulation in February last year restricting discriminatory pricing (or zero-rating) of applications, and content.
– In February 2015, it published a consultation paper on internet licensing and net neutrality.

Questions for consultation

The regulator had issued a 14-point questionnaire under the consultation:

Q.1 What could be the principles for ensuring nondiscriminatory access to content on the Internet, in the Indian context?

Q.2 How should “Internet traffic” and providers of “Internet services” be understood in the NN context?
(a) Should certain types of specialised services, enterprise solutions, Internet of Things, etc be excluded from its scope? How should such terms be defined?
(b) How should services provided by content delivery networks and direct interconnection arrangements be treated? Please provide reasons.

Q.3 In the Indian context, which of the following regulatory approaches would be preferable:
(a) Defining what constitutes reasonable TMPs (the broad approach), or
(b) Identifying a negative list of non reasonable TMPs (the narrow approach).Please provide reasons.

Q.4 If a broad regulatory approach, as suggested in Q3, is to be followed:
(a) What should be regarded as reasonable TMPs and how should different categories of traffic be objectively defined from a technical point of view for this purpose?
(b) Should application-specific discrimination within a category of traffic be viewed more strictly than discrimination between categories?
(c) How should preferential treatment of particular content, activated by a user’s choice and without any arrangement between a TSP and content provider, be treated?

Q.5 If a narrow approach, as suggested in Q3, is to be followed what should be regarded as non reasonable TMPs?

Q.6 Should the following be treated as exceptions to any regulation on TMPs?
(a) Emergency situations and services;
(b) Restrictions on unlawful content;
(c) Maintaining security and integrity of the network;
(d) Services that may be notified in public interest by the Government/ Authority, based on certain criteria; or
(e) Any other services. Please elaborate.

Q.7 How should the following practices be de_ned and what are the tests, thresholds and technical tools that can be adopted to detect their deployment:
(a) Blocking;
(b) Throttling (for example, how can it be established that a particular application is being throttled?); and
(c) Preferential treatment (for example, how can it be established that preferential treatment is being provided to a particular application?).

Q.8 Which of the following models of transparency would be preferred in the Indian context:
(a) Disclosures provided directly by a TSP to its consumers;
(b) Disclosures to the regulator;
(c) Disclosures to the general public; or
(d) A combination of the above.Please provide reasons. What should be the mode, trigger and frequency to publish such information?

Q.9 Please provide comments or suggestions on the Information Disclosure Template at Table 5.1? Should this vary for each category of stakeholders identified above? Please provide reasons for any suggested changes.

Q.10 What would be the most effective legal/policy instrument for implementing a NN framework in India?
(a) Which body should be responsible for monitoring and supervision?
(b) What actions should such body be empowered to take in case of any detected violation?
(c) If the Authority opts for QoS regulation on this subject, what should be the scope of such regulations?

Q.11 What could be the challenges in monitoring for violations of any NN framework? Please comment on the following or any other suggested mechanisms that may be used for such monitoring:
(a) Disclosures and information from TSPs;
(b) Collection of information from users (complaints, user-experience apps, surveys, questionnaires); or
(c) Collection of information from third parties and public domain (research studies, news articles, consumer advocacy reports).

Q.12 Can we consider adopting a collaborative mechanism, with representation from TSPs, content providers, consumer groups and other stakeholders, for managing the operational aspects of any NN framework?
(a) What should be its design and functions?
(b) What role should the Authority play in its functioning?

Q.13 What mechanisms could be deployed so that the NN policy/regulatory framework may be updated on account of evolution of technology and use cases?

Q.14 The quality of Internet experienced by a user may also be impacted by factors such as the type of device, browser, operating system being used. How should these aspects be considered in the NN context? Please explain with reasons.

Image Credits: Flickr user Free Press under CC BY-SA 2.0

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