Telecom operators have not been reasonable when managing traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially important as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is holding a Net Neutrality consultation process right now about reasonable traffic management. The Department of Telecommunications' license for telcos is clear that traffic management practices should be "proportionate, transient and transparent". In March, telecom operators essentially forced internet companies to start reducing the bitrates of their video streams. Since the Cellular Operators Association of India was able to convince the telecom secretary to personally reach out to internet companies, the latter had no choice. They fell in line. This was a traffic management practice directed by the telcos, with the only caveat being that they got content providers to execute the task for them. Was what telcos did proportionate? No. Traffic surged only 15% after the COVID-19 lockdown started on mobile networks. Airtel has been almost doubling its traffic every year, so it is hard to imagine that telcos wouldn't be prepared for a 15% spurt in usage. Was what they did transient? The moment telecom operators realized that these restrictions were not necessary, they should have immediately withdrawn their request to internet companies. But they chose to wait. YouTube continues to cap video quality at 480p for all mobile users in India, even those on WiFi. It has been over three months since the restrictions started. Were telcos transparent? While we have gotten some general industry-level insights into traffic spikes, individual telecom operators have not responded to our…
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