The Asia Internet Coalition recommended a principles-based set of rules to govern Net Neutrality regulation in India. The AIC represents the interests of Amazon, Google and Facebook, among others, in Asia. The filing also warned against regulating content providers à la telecom providers. Amazon and Google both operate cloud services with a significant market share.

ReadThe curiously absent voice in the Net Neutrality debate

TRAI sought views from stakeholders on what a committee to enforce net neutrality should look like in India. It is also looking into issues related to traffic management practices as these could affect net neutrality.

In the UK, the communications regulator Ofcom requires telecom providers to answer and publish a questionnaire that details, in simple terms, how they manage traffic in terms of throttling specific types of content or prioritising traffic. AIC suggested such a model for India.

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Like the telecom providers, AIC argued that traffic management is needed for security and managing quality across all services during network congestion. But the trade group warned that these practices should only be used in a way that does not “skew access to the Internet”.

  1. Internet providers shouldn’t use TMPs to abuse market power: “Illegitimate TMPs could lead to discrimination by fixed or mobile TSPs/ISPs who have market power,” the group warned, adding that “TMPs should be guided by foundational principles of net neutrality.” This, AIC said, would prevent telecom providers from prioritising their own applications and services.
  2. 5G network slicing could be discriminatory: “Practices such as 5G network slicing,” AIC said, “have the potential to be used to circumvent the core net neutrality principles.” 5G network slicing lets telcos allocate resources dynamically in real time depending on demand for specific types of services. In her filing, Stanford law professor Barbara van Schewick pointed out that while discrimination in a 5G network becomes easier, the need for it also reduces because capacity increases significantly.
  3. No need to create a list of TMPs: AIC said that creating a list of traffic management practices “would not be effective for TSPs”. This is in line with responses across the board, which warn that the pace at which network technology is progressing makes it hard for telcos to enumerate the ever-growing ways in which telcos manage traffic.
  4. Self-certification: AIC said that telcos should be able to self-certify their compliance with Net Neutrality principles, instead of requiring active probes and crowd-sourcing. Crowd-sourcing responses could lead to bad quality complaints too, the coalition argued.
  5. No need for multi-stakeholder body: “We do not believe that a multi-stakeholder body (MSB) is required, even in an advisory capacity,” AIC said. The group argued that the Department of Telecommunications should have the first and last say on enforcing Net Neutrality regulations, as an MSB “will add to the bureaucratic process [and] could cause uncertainty and chaos in the industry.” AIC said that instead of such a body, industry groups that already exist should be leveraged (a point that the telecom operators made in their filings).
  6. Leave non-telcos alone: In a line that content providers and middle-mile operators like cloud service providers have made clear (see, for instance, Akamai and Netflix‘s responses to earlier Net Neutrality consultations), AIC cautioned TRAI against regulating non-telcos. “Not all stakeholders in the Internet ecosystem are comparable,” the group said. “The net neutrality principles are vital for stakeholders that control the underlying and critical infrastructure and enjoy widespread access, such as traditional TSPs.” ISPs have demanded that content providers also be subject to Net Neutrality rules in the past. “An over-prescriptive approach could do more harm than good, especially in the case of Over-the-top service providers, for example, which require more flexibility and ability to innovate in order for the industry to grow,” the group concluded.

Links: Consultation | Filing

Dive deeper: Airtel’s submission | Reliance Jio’s submission | Barbara van Schewick’s submission