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LIVE: TRAI’s Net Neutrality open house discussion in Bangalore

TRAI is holding a Net Neutrality open house discussion in Bangalore today at 10am. We’ll be posting updates below. Watch the livestream here.

Excerpts quoted below are not necessarily verbatim, but we will do our best to make sure that they are represented accurately.

Read our primer on the main issues of this net neutrality consultation here. Read our live coverage of TRAI’s previous Net Neutrality open house discussion in Mumbai here.

Live Updates

1:00: The OHD has ended. Advisor Asit Kadayan delivers vote of thanks.

12:56: IIT-B: We need to build tools. TRAI should sponsor budgets for building tools for detecting NN violations. Academia etc can help in building them.

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Mahesh Uppal: I think TRAI is the appropriate body to regulate this, as Internet access comes under it and most importantly, Internet infrastructure comes under this. The whole business of NN is about access to infrastructure. Hence TRAI has a mandate for this is the appropriate body. It is also designed to have technical expertise to do that. We recognize that there’s a difference between the ex-ante and ex-post part about this. Any serious issues about discrimination and competition would be arbitrated by CCI. But the ex-ante part, the part before any abuse or violation, remains with TRAI.

12:54: Airtel: The policy framework is clear that who is going to be a part of the policy. It’s premature to say how it will be regulated. Whatever is there under TRAI Act etc. So there is an established framework on reviewing policies, like consultation paper, whenever they feel that framework can be modified.

Brajesh Jain, ISPAI: We believe that existing framework is [unclear] however there is need of multilateral empowered agency. There needs to be a framework and informed civil society and industry experts, and overall control of TRAI.

12:52: Pranesh Prakash: Approved Compulsory Co-regulation is something we support. The details are on our submission. To answer Q13, a broad regulatory approach would account for tech evolution.

12:50: Last theme for the day: Issues for Consultation: (Policy/regulatory approach for India)

Question 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?

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Question 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?

Question 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?

12:45: Mahesh Uppal: If we believe that this info should be available it should be available publicly. Consumers being able to understand or not is different. We often forget that there are consumer agencies that can deal with this data and there is data in the public domain that can be used. Yes, it’s assumed that some people will not understand it and will need help.

Kiran Jonnalagadda: I think it’s important to disclose to general public once a month in a readable format.

Pranesh Prakash: I agree with the previous speakers, but I’d like to add that there are different kinds of information need to be available and transparency would be dependent on that. It’s not just for existing but potential customers. Other information such as interconnection agreements where there’s settlement is involved — paid peering and transit agreements must be deposited with TRAI. They’re commercially sensitive so can’t be disclosed to public but most be disclosed to TRAI. It has to have access to those agreement, to their terms. Insofar as the UK model is concerned (Ofcom) which is a self-regulatory transparent model, that transparency form is good and can be implemented here.

12:43: Devashish, BIF: There should be a mix of direct and indirect approach. In indirect approach, it is disclosed to regulator and in direct it is to consumer. We believe consumers should get easily understandable; detailed reports should be with regulator and not consumers. Regulators should carefully check, and if there’s violation, regulator should post on their website on who is violating and how. As far as disclosures are concerned, we believe TSPs should disclose on a monthly basis.

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12:40: Biju from SFLC: It should be a combination, since disclosures from telcos may not be understood by consumers. The UK’s disclosure mechanism has a simple FAQ format so consumers understand format. Disclosures to the regulator: this also needs to be done. To the public too. All these should be followed.

Brajesh Jain: We believe disclosures to consumers and regulator is good. But disclosure to non-consumer public is hard.

Airtel: Transparency is a good thing, but we need to understand the consumer. While it should be a combination approach, it is good to submit to TRAI and DOT, and as far as disclosure to consumers is concerned, TSP can always put on the website. The challenge would be that it would be technical. From perspective of retailer would also be challenging. So there needs to be a distinction between — customers should not be overloaded.

12:38: Brand new theme: Transparency: When, To Whom & To What Extent

Question 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.

What should be the mode, trigger and frequency to publish such information?

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Question 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.

12:37: Biju from SFLC: The case of US where Open Technology Institute and 2-3 universities have come out with a tool, which we could look into — these are independent validation processes. If there are academia and tech companies involved, there would be indepenedent analysis. Various tools we could look into.

12:33: Anil Kaushal, TRAI: Does someone have any solutions rather than just presenting difficulties?

Balaji, C-DAC: How can preferential treatment happen in the first place? Traffic shaping has to happen in the first place. I guess if the complete dataset is available, if there are traffic-shaping tools, [unclear].

12:29: Pranesh Prakash: I’d like to disagree with ISPAI — measurements of NN violations are very difficult to do, especially independently. TRAI should be able to conduct measurement, and it has to be seen as to who is doing network interference and TMPs, and why it is done. This is very different situation from price discrimination, where motivations don’t matter. Here motivations matter. An Ofcom report says that M-Lab’s tools for measurement and other measurement kits — each of these has positives and negatives. No one of these techniques is enough to give sufficient answers to these problems. I suggest that TRAI commission its own report; since DoT report there have been developments. In short, this is an incredibly complicated and difficult area which regulators are grappling with.

12:28: Here’s a Facebook livestream:

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12:24: Unknown: Information submitted by TSPs may be incomplete. Collection of information from users may not be easily cognizable. Information from third parties may lack statistical robustness. Our submission is using of a crowd-sourced platform with periodic reviews. We suggest a crowd-sourced option to gather info on any violations. General feedback on violations of reasonable TMPs should be set.

Brajesh Jain: We believe that disclosure, info from TSPs is important, as well as from users. Collection from third party is dangerous though. However, if the third party says ‘we will upgrade the rating of this IP if you pay is’ that can go wrong. Tools for measurement: it is fairly easy to detect blocking and throttling. There has to be an independent third party who keeps on doing this and it is not difficult to do this at all.

12:22: New theme: Tools for measurements: Reporting & monitoring

Question 7: How should the following practices be defined 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?).

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Question 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).

12:19: Mahesh Uppal: I think it’s very critical that we understand the motivation of NN, whether it is last mile for ISPs or [unclear]. As long as specialized services don’t affect QoS of Internet access itself, you should be okay with differentiating. Again, as far as CDNs are concerned, we need to go back to the intentions of why these things are being done. We must keep under watch any kind of collusive arguments. As long as the network doesn’t tie you down to a particular browser etc, we should be fine. For instance we never considered the Kindle, which is a non-neutral device by definition. As long as the discrimination is not harmful we must not regulate.

12:13: Unkown: The problem of regulating telecom providers is that the real beneficiaries are network providers. Unless there is an opportunity to regulate content providers, this is a doomed exercise. The way the economics plays, unless the creator of value is regulated — there has to be a broader concept of neutrality. A bundling at a higher level should be subject to regulations.

12:18: Unknown: Those who touch end-point of the Internet are the ones who should have NN be applicable to them. Applicability to end-users and content providers — they should not be under these regulations.

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12:13: Unkown: The problem of regulating telecom providers is that the real beneficiaries are network providers. Unless there is an opportunity to regulate content providers, this is a doomed exercise. The way the economics plays, unless the creator of value is regulated — there has to be a broader concept of neutrality. A bundling at a higher level should be subject to regulations.

12:12: Brajesh Jain: Specialized services are services which are latency-sensitive, example gaming as a class needs low latency, and any TSP has to provide low latency for gaming. VoIP needs low jitter — variation in latency should be low. Of course, violating between companies violates NN, but specialized services as a whole need careful consideration.

12:10: Manjunath: While the browser example doesn’t violate NN per se, there could be a chain of events that lead up to violation. Essentially, it’s probably not a direct violation, but I can see how allowing gardenwalled devices can lead to NN violation.

Gopinath, IISc: CDNs mostly serve ads, so one could argue that there could be, in cases of extreme stress, CDNs primarily dealing with ad traffic, it may be reasonable to discriminate against certain advertising CDNs.


11:51: Internet Traffic, ISP & Other components: (Exclusion)

Question 2: How should “Internet traffic” and providers of “Internet services” be understood in the NN context?
(a) Should certain types of specialized 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?
Question 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?

Airtel: Unless there is certain assured QoS for specialized service, they cannot run. TRAI should define scope of specialized service and be excluded from NN perspective. Browsers and devices also impact service so they should be under NN regulations too.

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MediaNama: Devices and browsers don’t have the gatekeeping that TSPs do, so they should not be subject to Net Neutrality regulations.

RS Sharma: How about devices and browsers which limit the number of websites you access?

Kiran Jonnalagadda: Those can be permitted since that’s user choice, not something being imposed by a TSP.

11:47: Mahesh Uppal: Transparency is critical. In all cases where we’re trying to make exceptions, we must have a transparent method of identifying what those exceptions are. All these exceptions should be time-bound or by other conditions. Nothing should be a blanket permission to discriminate.

Pranesh Prakash: Existing standards within telecom regulation and licensing on unlawful content and restrictions are not in keeping with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Section 66A of the IT Act. If this is included in the list of exceptions, especially if government notifies, the standards government must follow should be clear. Eg. if they’re using Sec 69A, it should be narrowly construed and specifically noted. These will only be exceptions only if narrow approach is taken.

Tarun Chitkara, Airtel: When talking about security and integrity of networks, lots of steps need to be taken by TSPs. There can be discrimination between two applications in the same way. If that application is affecting QoS, that should be taken into account. DPI should be permitted, but only to maintain integrity & security for network, not to monitor user traffic.

11:40: Biju, SFLC: For reasonable TMPs, we have put out some parameters. One would be motive. All TMPs must comply with technical functions for technical goals; managing network integrity. TMPs should be proportional to motive. TMPs shouldn’t unduly impact more regions. Duration of TMPs should be temporary and limited. TMPs must be only deployed during congestion. TMPs should be transparent and disclosed. Monitoring should be done of violations.

11:37: BEL: Government initiatives, like Aadhaar authentication, NSCs, and Internet-based services for education and academia should be exempted.

Mahesh Uppal: The points on application agnosticism are well made. But preferential treatment by user choice is different — we must recognize that there’s every good sense in allowing the user to determine QoS they want from an ISP. If I as a user am willing to permit something on my behalf that should be okay. I may want some content blocked on my phone or PC. As long as this isn’t controlled on operator end, it shouldn’t be treated as an abusive gateway function. At the same time, this shouldn’t be done in partnership between operator and content provider. Even in those cases where content player and TSP can act in concert or have any arrangement, we must be driven by the larger issue of discrimination in access. In these cases we must be in better sync with the goals of NN.

11:30: Balaji from C-DAC: My view is that when talking about non-discriminatory access, it should be device, application and location agnostic. The classification of content should not be discriminatory. Classification is different from discrimination.

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11:29: Brajesh Jain: What should not happen is that the same content should not be within and outside CECN. In 2016, the Nobel Prize winner Oliver Hart that any contract is not perfect. There’s a need for quick resolution for issues that come up.

11:27: Kiran Jonnalagadda, Internet Freedom Foundation: I’d like to respond to BIF. The example of Ola Play is a good example, but it’s an application. As an application that learns user preferences, that’s fine. But ISPs can’t be dictating preferences. NN is required for this innovative approach to exist in the first place.

11:25: IT for Change: Our 3 basic principles are that NN should be seen as an enabler for a level playing field; culturally, politically and socially. It should be a public utility, with a rights-based approach. NN recommendations should be based on tech outcomes but social outcomes. We have a fundamentals-based approach on NN. Regardless of approach, the principles should be supported.

11:15: Devashish, BIF: Before I get into the questions, I’d like to give a broad overview. Today we have approximately 450 million Internet users. Broadband are only 276 million. Most of them are in 512Kbps because that’s the definition. Are we saying that people who are connected to the Internet are on a best efforts Internet? Do we think that this is the time to prescribe regulations as to what kind of traffic should flow? First we must get the Internet to all parts of the country — this is a crying need. Everybody’s need is not the same.

Differentiation isn’t discrimination. You can provide differentiated content based on your needs. Many of us may have gotten here on Ola. If you take Ola Prime, they give you a little tablet [Ola Play] which you can watch for half an hour. Next time you get on, it knows your preferences. It’ll give you content you like. This doesn’t mean there’s a walled garden. This means they only provide content you like. You can have a differentiated bouquet of services for different services. This to my mind should be separated from the Disciminatory Tariff Prohibition. This should be re-examined in the light of NN discussions.

Secondly, NN regulation should not apply for exceptional services — which should be either dependent on usage, customer requirement, class of service, higher payment by customers for better value or QoS, that should be permitted and NN regulations should not apply.

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OTT regulation and TSP regulation cannot be similar. TSPs have spectrum, right of way, broadband infrastructure, and so on. Until I have access to TSP, I can’t access OTT. There is absolutely no comparison between TSP and OTT.

Applications should not be under NN regulations since they’re riding on TSPs and don’t have gatekeeping power. Since that power is with TSPs and ISPs, regulatory principles should be only on TSPs and ISPs.

Anil Kaushal, TRAI: We’re talking about public network, not private networks, like your example of Ola Play.

Devashish: Point is that different consumers have different requirements; any kind of collaboration between TSP and content for differentiated content isn’t discriminatory.

11:13: Mukund, IT & tech consultant: NN should protect content, privacy, and also have regulation. That’s the fundamental principle of NN. It should apply to all networks. Public networks, corporate networks, private networks, which use bandwidth in the backbone that affects network and QoS.

11:11: Shiv Kumar, Exotel: In the US, they say it’s reasonably healthy to drink water from a tap, so there’s a quality standard there. But that doesn’t stop the mineral water market, as people continue to buy bottles of water for whatever reason. If we are going down the road of Internet being a human right, we should regulate in a way that allows people to make their choices while also having free and fair Internet.

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11:06: Mahesh Uppal, consultant: What is critical in the two questions: the first is discrimination and access. The real issue is that we want things to be non-discriminatory, which should include anything which is discriminatory in a negative way, as Mr Prakash said. We cannot read into discrimination anything which is affirmative. For example none of us would think that a subsidy given to someone who’s disabled or lives in a rural or remote area is necessarily discriminatory. The difference between affirmative and discriminatory needs to be clearly differentiated. There’s a body of literature on regulating through principle and through detail. A paper on this said that these things should be determined by enforceability. My point is we need clear rules, but be cognizant of enforceability problems. Whatever we do regulate, whatever we put out in the form of rules should be sufficiently and unambiguously enforceible. India needs a mix of broad and narrow principles — we need regulatory principles as well as some things which we know a priori that we will not allow. We must recognize that this isn’t an area where everything can be written in stone. Our rules should be generic, opposed to any negative discrimination, be flexible, and be under review at a regular stated interval.

11:01: Pranesh Prakash, CIS: We have oftentimes in our submissions held that NN is the principle that gatekeepers are not supposed to discriminate between similarly situated content and traffic. This means ISPs should not negatively discriminate with limited exceptions. In terms of positive discrimination, where users are not harmed, there should be a different approach. What people understand as narrow or broad approach is different. One can say that a broad approach is a positive list versus a negative list of what shouldn’t be allowed. A resonableness framework is the first one and the second is a list of unreasonable behaviours. For a positive vs negative list, a negative list is preferable as it preserves flexibility. For a reasonableness framework, I would prefer a framework over a specific list of behaviours. As we pointed out in our responses, it’s important to keep in mind that the principles are that regulation should be flexible, and don’t harm choice. I’d like to caution that people understand that broad and narrow approach can do — the section in the CP was a little confusing.

RS Sharma: What’s your answer to that confusion?

Pranesh: Whichever approach allows greater flexibility and user choice should be taken. The reasonableness framework — the sets of things that are generally reasonable without listing them out, not following that and taking a reasonableness framework is what we prefer.

11:00: Jio: We support NN’s fundamental principles. There should be no unreasonable discrimination. Adopting a broad approach would be over-regulation since defining all acceptable traffic management principles is difficult. We support a narrow approach. Transparently these can be mandated to TSPs to put on their websites so users are aware of what they’re subscribing to. On case by case basis TRAI can handle complaints of violations of the narrow approach.

10:58: Biju Narayanan, SFLC: Principles for ensuring non-discriminatory access: there should be application-blindness, transparency in traffic management, no Deep Packet Inspection, no paid prioritization.

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10:57: IoT Forum: We were not concerned with NN until a cybersecurity forum. Regarding CECNs: the economics of securing IoT devices is unviable — the amount of malware etc — we are working on new tech and don’t have answers. We haven’t made submissions. There is a need to change the regulatory design from NN perspective. Security of thousands of IoT machines can’t be done individually. The city is secured by police, not by each house. NN principles should allow a regulatory sandbox where we can pioneer approach from an IoT cybersecurity framework which allows ISPs etc are allowed to shut malware down.

10:55: RS Sharma: Our goal with the February prohibition on discriminatory tariffs. We earlier said that CECN is not under our purview. Things that are not in the public Internet are under CECN and these regulations don’t apply. This was how we structured. This isn’t something we have said will apply for eternity. Just because TRAI took that approach then — every comment at every time is welcome.

10:48: Tarun Chitkara, Airtel: I think this is a critical subject debated around the world. Our submissions are: the whole issued should be holistically reviewed, like ‘same service same rules’; last time TRAI tried to tackle two or three issues simultaneously. I request that whenever TRAI issues recommendations, same service same rule needs to be reviewed. Pricing also can be looked at. Internet is not just provided by TSPs. Other stakeholders like Facebook and Google also play a role. Any NN rules should include them as well. If I am not allowed to send data to other countries, other stakeholders should also be subject to the same rules. Browsers and devices need to be looked at too. A lot of information is not available on JioPhone — some have said this will have pre-loaded applications and won’t allow other apps. Some say they may treat their own apps differently. We hope TRAI will look into this and provide clarity to all stakeholders. With regard to the questions, we believe it should be a reasonable TMP with a broad approach. Rules should be clearly laid down on reasonableness. If I need to take any steps to protect integrity of network, that should be allowed.

10:47: Brajesh Jain, ISPAI: It is very necessary to define ‘content’. For example, the chairman already said that zero rating content — in this case, [Free Basics] appeared to belongs to a third party. Some ISPs may say that ‘this content belongs to us so we will zero-rate’. There is nothing stopping this situation. So it is important to distinguish content owned by TSPs and by a third party. We are noticing that a TSP is providing content zero-rated saying it’s their own. For Question 3 on broad vs narrow approach, we believe a narrow approach would be good, because a broad approach would require fresh lists of acceptable behaviour. A negative approach gives you freedom till review exposes new behaviour which can be added to the negative list.

10:44: Current theme: Core principles of Net Neutrality, and a regulatory approach:

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

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10:41: Questions divided into five themes:

Approach and Scope for Net Neutrality
— Q.1, Q.3, Q.4, Q.5 & Q.6
What is it and to whom it applies
— Q.2 & Q.14
Tools for Measurements: Reporting and Monitoring
— Q.7 & Q.11
Disclosures and Transparency
— Q.8 & Q.9
Policy/ Legal Instruments and Next Generation Technologies
— Q.10, Q.12 & Q.13

10:35: RS Sharma, TRAI chairman: This is the second open house discussion we’re having on Net Neutrality. Typically the process we follow is that for deciding or giving out recommendations on any issue to the government, a very long consultation occurs with all stakeholders. For this we create a consultation paper and seek everyone’s views. And then the issues and questions are taken as an input, and the responses and counter-comments to those responses. After this, we schedule an OHD, which typically takes place once in Delhi. However, since the last two years, we have decided that issues which have far-reaching consequences should have more than one open house discussion, so we can reach every corner of the country instead of everyone coming to Delhi. For this we had one OHD in Mumbai some time back. This is the second one, and the final one will hopefully in Delhi.

We took a call on the tariff aspect of Net Neutrality with the discriminatory pricing prohibition. But NN is a multi-faceted issue, so we floated a consultation paper that addressed the other aspects of Net Neutrality. We’re not sure exactly what form our conclusions will take, whether policy recommendation or laying down rules — that’s a call we’ll take later. We’re open with our approach to consultations — deadlines on consultation paper responses are not strict.

10:33: The regulators are here. Advisor Sunil Bajpai welcomes everyone.

10:32: Livestream will be up soon (the event hasn’t started yet) — TRAI officials say they’re looking into it. In the meantime, here’s a recording of the previous Net Neutrality open house discussion held in Mumbai.

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9:47: Jio and Airtel’s reps are the first ones in the door.

9:24: Discussion starts in half an hour. Reps from NIPFP, IAMAI, IIT Bombay, Internet Freedom Foundation, and others are here so far. Richard Clayderman’s rendition of Phantom of the Opera plays in the background.

Written By

I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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