Comments on the TRAI consultation Paper on Regulatory framework for Over the Top services

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has called for comments on its consultation paper on regulatory framework for Over the Top services, which is accessible at page http://trai.gov.in/WriteReaddata/ConsultationPaper/Document/OTT-CP-27032015.pdf

I have submitted the following comments:

Comments on the Consultation Paper on Regulatory frameworks for Over the Top Services

The Regulatory framework as proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is an alarm. The Members of Parliament and the common man alike needs to be concerned about the implications of TRAI’s sphere or authority expanded to include the Internet which would interfere to alter the fundamental nature of the Internet:

  1. TRAI seeks to favor Telecom companies at the consumer’s expense by this proposal to alter the core architecture of the Internet, and the core values that make the Internet a free, open and universally accessible eco-system. Internet has transformed the way we do business, the way we all communicate and relate to each other – within and beyond borders. Internet has brought the world together by its end-to-end architecture without a centralized form of control. As an eco-system, it is far more advanced than Telegraphs and Telephones, mostly runs on a business model that is benevolent to all, treats all traffic from every person or organization, big or small, irrespective of nationality or ideology equally. With its architecture and its core values, Internet offers the common man’s greatest hope for freedom of expression and civil liberties and offers the greatest hope for participation in Democracy in its fullest form, minimize conflicts, bridge technological gaps as also bring in a certain degree of equity in the World economy. What TRAI proposes to do is to destroy the very foundations on which the Internet eco-system is built.
  2. The Telecom Authority wishes to bring the Internet as part of the Telecom Regulation. This would gradually bring in Telecom-like commercial model to the Internet for the benefit of the Telecom companies which would make the Internet very similar to the Cable TV in terms of the high price the consumer pays for access.
  3. These harmful commercial models would cause net neutrality to erode. Telecom companies would become gatekeepers of Internet Traffic, interfere in Network Traffic which has so far been free of centralized forms of control. Telecom companies would introduce fast-laning for paid traffic which would invariably lead to “throttling” of free traffic, and would lead to situations of extortionist pricing by Telecom companies. Internet would become far more expensive for the common man.
  4. This would invariably lead to an Internet of walled gardens wherein large Internet companies would contain their users within their sphere of services, making it difficult for users to access the major part of the Internet not offered as part of the services they are subscribed to.
  5. There are some security concerns about the way the Internet is abused by a certain section of users. Some of the security threats are real, but politicized by Governments to bring in an excessive framework of surveillance both for legitimate and excessively political reasons. The TRAI proposal would enhance the surveillance capabilities of Telecom Companies in the process of enabling Telecom companies to inspect Internet traffic in packets (Deep Packet Inspection) for commercial reasons. DPI could be the ulterior motive for Governments to favor telecom companies. TRAI’s proposal not only favors the Telecom companies, but unseen, makes it easy for the Law and Order Agencies to legally or otherwise monitor on the common man’s Internet usage.
  6. Regulators dislike the end to end architecture of the Internet with no centralized form of control and wish to alter the architecture in the guise of making the Internet more secure. There have been similar harmful proposals to regulate the Internet in various countries, voted out by public opposition, but these very proposals come back around sometime later by a different name in a different place. The TRAI proposal wraps up elements of such regulatory moves already voted out in other countries. Moreover, in India, Airtel proposed to charge differential rates for different types of traffic, which were withdrawn by overwhelming public opposition. This was a move by a Telecom company that merited TRAI to intervene against the proposal, but it wasn’t TRAI that stopped it. Instead, TRAI brings it back, this time seeking to enable this by Government directive. TRAI’s consultation paper reads like a business case for the Telecom companies printed on Government paper. Rather than look into the regulatory issues concerning how Telcom companies operate, the Regulatory Authority pleads their business case with total disregard to the fact that the Internet has actually brought in newer opportunities for the Telecom companies to enhance their revenues, and these companies are already profitable on the existing Data pricing models. TRAI’s paper misleads the policy makers and common man with the spurious argument that extortive pricing models are necessary to keep telecommunications companies in business. “The worst thing policy makers could do to the Internet would be to allow telecom companies to mess with the Internet.” TRAI appears to argue that the Telecom companies have a right to impose a fanciful pricing model. The paper is partial on Internet companies and misguides the reader with the notion that large Internet companies such as Google and Facebook are profitable at the expense of the cable and phone companies. The Telecom companies do not incur loss on account of OTT traffic, the truth is that the OTT services have opened up the opportunity for Telecom Companies to sell Data plans that have enhanced their revenues. As Deepak Shenoy argues “Data is in fact driving their revenues up, far more than anything else” http://capitalmind.in/2015/04/telecom-companies-are-not-losing-money-to-data-services-the-net-neutrality-debate/ )

Rather than expand its sphere of reach to Internet which requires a completely different thinking, TRAI could focus on the gaps in Telecom regulation:

A. Telecom regulations, even within the Telecom sphere, have restrained consumer experience. For example, sometime ago, TRAI restrained Telecom companies from having peering arrangements among themselves for switching 3G traffic. This affected seamless connectivity for customers on the move.

B. If TRAI is concerned about the cost of communication services to customers, it could work to recommend to the Government to free the Wireless spectrum. After the recent spectrum controversy on spectrum mismanagement and loss of revenues, the Government wanted to be seen being correct, so made the wireless spectrum pricey by auction. The revenues so determined, would serve to increase the cost of communication services to customers. TRAI could recommend that this money is not collected or returned if already collected.

C. TRAI has not looked in the practices of Telecom companies concerning the bandwidth they offer to consumers in India which averages 1 Mbps of nominal connectivity, actually amounting to 256 Kbps of average connectivity which on the mobile phone streams at less than 56 kbps on 3G most of the time in most locations. This is way below the standards of a hundred other countries around the world, while the price charged per connection is almost on par with the rest of the world, TRAI could look into this.

D. One of the reasons why Telecom companies find it relatively less profitable to operate is that even the largest of the Telecom Companies have outsourced Network Management to overseas Telecom / Technology companies. TRAI could assist the Telecom companies in building up the required technical capabilities to manage Networks on their own.

E. International Mobile roaming pricing, both for Voice and Data, by Indian telecom companies is prohibitively expensive are extortionistic. TRAI could look into the reasons and assist the Telecom companies in rationalizing the pricing plans for International roaming.

F. TRAI could look for solutions for 100% connectivity across India with receptiveness.

Sivasubramanian M
President
Internet Society India Chennai
http://isocindiachennai.org
http://twitter.com/shivaindia
6.Internet@gmail.com

RoundTable at the Asia Internet Symposium: What can India bring to Internet Governace

Asia Internet Symposium Chennai, was organized around the theme “India in the Free and Open Global Internet” in two sessions.


Full Playlist starts with the inaugural introduction to the Event, followed by the recordings of speeches by the Invitees including the Key Note Speaker, in turn followed by the recording of Round Table Session ( bit.ly/aischennai  look for the video titled “AIS Chennai 2014 – Roundtable: What can India bring to Internet Governance?”) followed by Closing Remarks on the intended follow up.

 

The event brought together local Community Leaders from different stakeholder groups and created awareness on the participation opportunities and the receptiveness of the Internet Governance process for global participation. The event also aimed to bring in committed participants to the multi-stakeholder process in India for Internet Governance Policy and programs.

AIS Internet Society India Chennai
Asia Internet Symposium Internet Society India Chennai Key Note by Shri Bharat Epur

The event started with a short duration inaugural session  on India’s concern with a Key Note Address by Bharat Epur, Director, Epur Investments and Talks on Internet Governance by David Appasamy, Founder, Raising iBrows, Samiran Gupta, Head of ICANN for India and Rajnesh Singh, Director, Asia Pacific Regional Bureau of the Internet Society.  This session was followed a very broad Round Table with the these invitees and visionary Business Leaders from TiE Chennai, spiritual leaders from Art Of Living, Students from MOP Vaishnav College, Anna Universtiy and Loyolla College as also several member of Internet Society India Chennai. The discussions went beyond India’s concerns as a Nation, and endeavored to bring up higher thoughts on ways of strengthening Internet Governance in a manner that is fair for the whole world. This was to MAKE A START of a process of generating broad thinking on positive ways by which different cultures could broadly contribute to further the evolution of the Free and Open Internet.

Internet is Global and the process of Internet Governance has enormous responsibilities as it has the well being of all the people of the world at stake. This makes it necessary for the Internet Governance Institutions to look beyond the existing models that happen to be more based on corporate governance models and strengthen it further as a larger and higher governance framework for universal good, broadened with values that are far more profound.

At the moment this is largely an undefined exercise, would get defined as it takes shape further.

AIS Chennai RoundTable
Internet Round Table at Chennai

The RoundTable with participants from India brought up the idea of “Vasu Deva Kudumbakam” – the world as one family – any notion of separation is superficial, but on a deeper level the whole world is an undivided unity. Especially among people of India, this notion of the world as an undivided family is deep rooted. India has the inherent psychological strength to awaken this notion, discuss and nudge others to embrace this idealistic notion.

AIS Internet Society India Chennai
Asia Internet Symposium Internet Society India Chennai Table of Students from MOP Vaishnav College and Anna University

The Round Table brought up thoughts that included abstract ideas of such as the concept of five elements as also ideas drawn from the Constitution of India that could be relevant to global Internet Governance. Other ideas mentioned included the Indian concept of a “Guru” or “RajaGuru” and possible modernization of such a concept into that of an enhanced Advisory Body so as to keep Governance on the path of broader justice. Participants also sought to explore the Indian concept of “Dharma” and its relevance as a component of the existing foundation of Internet Governance.

Follow up

Organized as a session of the Asia Internet Symposium, this Round Table discussion on this theme is the first of the two or more discussions planned at Chennai.The Chennai meeting was a START for this process and the thoughts brought up at this first meeting form a minuscule part of the ideas from the wealth of wisdom from this region, from past and present. There is a plan to organize a larger event with expert participation as a larger round table, possibly with the participation of some Internet Community leaders. Some of the ideas – many more to be identified – to be explored in follow up meetings in Chennai and possibly in certain other parts of the world are:

  • concepts from business including the ISO model of creating an overall propensity to standards across the organization, rather than by inspection of individual products or service components;
  • governance models from large, global Charitable or Non-Governmental or Regional Organizations such as the Tata Trust, Virgin Atlantic, various Foundations or the Council of Europe.
  • concept of Trusteeship as conceived in India.
  • concept of Non-confrontational conflict resolution
  • notions of Commitment and Justice from earlier cultures
  • North African cross cultural notions of do’s and don’ts, right and wrong.
  • notions on various advisory / governance bodies such as the Council of Elders or the seat of a RajaGuru, placed on par or above the Seat of Governance
  • notions of division of powers/ balance in governance from earlier governance models or from National constitutions.
  • ideas on common good by fair governance from Eastern and Western philosophers

Internet Society India Chapter intends to write to other Chapters with a suggestion to replicate this event in their regions as also intends to work on a few jointly organized meetings in one or two locations. (Even this meeting benefited from collaboration, as Joly MacFie of the Internet Society of New York spent ample time guiding Hostmacro Web Services who sponsored Technical Support in-kind for the Webcast, and post event, Joly MacFie received the 12 GB video file, reviewed and edited it upload this Playlist in YouTube.)

The recommendations from this Round Table and follow up events are to be shared with the Internet Community Staff and possibly with any Community working groups exploring topics related to this theme.

Archives

Youtube : http://bit.ly/aischennai (a playlist of seven videos)
blog : http://isocindiachennai.org/?p=1915
Twitter: http://twitter.com/isocchennai

Contact

isocindiachennai (aT) gmail {dot} com

IETF Draft on Media Without Censorship (Censorfree)

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force, its areas, and its working groups, for review after which it may be introduced as an RFC for comments. Johan Pouwelse has introduced an “Internet Draft” at the Internet Engineering Task Force which describes some scenarios in which one can imagine that the ability of an authoritarian regime to censor news is reuced. The Censorfree objective is to standardize the protocols for micro-blogging on smart phones with a focus on security and censorship resistance.
http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-pouwelse-censorfree-scenarios-02

All RFCs are first published as Internet-Drafts (I-Ds). A well-formed RFC starts with a well-formed Internet-Draft. Please see the Internet-Drafts page on the IETF site for policy and submission guidelines, as it is authoritative regarding Internet-Drafts.

Vint Cerf asks the world to keep the Internet open

The Internet stands at a crossroads. Built from the bottom up, powered by the people, it has become a powerful economic engine and a positive social force. But its success has generated a worrying backlash. Around the world, repressive regimes are putting in place or proposing measures that restrict free expression and affect fundamental rights. The number of governments that censor Internet content has grown to 40 today from about four in 2002. And this number is still growing, threatening to take away the Internet as you and I have known it.

…The benefits of the open and accessible Internet are nearly incalculable and their loss would wreak significant social and economic damage. Against this background, a new front in the battle for the Internet is opening at the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations organization that counts 193 countries as its members.

At present, the I.T.U. focuses on telecommunication networks and on radio frequency allocations rather than the Internet per se. Some members are aiming to expand the agency’s treaty scope to include Internet regulation. Each of the 193 members gets a vote, no matter its record on fundamental rights — and a simple majority suffices to effect change. Negotiations are held largely among governments, with very limited access for civil society or other observers.

…The Net prospered precisely because governments — for the most part — allowed the Internet to grow organically, with civil society, academia, private sector and voluntary standards bodies collaborating on development, operation and governance. In contrast, the I.T.U. creates significant barriers to civil society participation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, it grew out of the International Telegraph Union, which was established in 1865.

… Last June, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated the goal of Russia and its allies as “establishing international control over the Internet” through the I.T.U. And in September 2011, China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan submitted a proposal for an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security” to the U.N. General Assembly, with the goal of establishing government-led “international norms and rules standardizing the behavior of countries concerning information and cyberspace.” Word of a few other proposals from inside the I.T.U. have surfaced.

Several authoritarian regimes reportedly would ban anonymity from the Web, which would make it easier to find and arrest dissidents. Others have suggested moving the privately run system that manages domain names and Internet addresses to the United Nations. Such proposals raise the prospect of policies that enable government controls but greatly diminish the “permissionless innovation” that underlies extraordinary Internet-based economic growth to say nothing of trampling human rights. Some countries have expressed sympathy for these proposals. They are concerned about the outsized role they perceive that the United States plays in the direction and development of Internet policy. Some believe the status quo favors the interests of large, global Internet companies.

...we need to prevent a fundamental shift in how the Internet is governed. I encourage you to take action now: Insist that the debate about Internet governance be transparent and open to all stakeholders.

United Kingdom: Phone and email records to be stored in new spy plan

United Kingdom:  Details of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites visited online are to be stored in a series of vast databases under new Government anti-terror plans.

Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to store the data for a year and make it available to the security services under the scheme.

The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by.

For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.

The Home Office is understood to have begun negotiations with internet companies in the last two months over the plan, which could be officially announced as early as May.

It is certain to cause controversy over civil liberties – but also raise concerns over the security of the records.

Access to such information would be highly prized by hackers and could be exploited to send spam email and texts. Details of which websites people visit could also be exploited for commercial gain.

The plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, the home security service, MI6, which operates abroad, and GCHQ, the Government’s “listening post” responsible for monitoring communications.

Rather than the Government holding the information centrally, companies including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the records themselves.

Under the scheme the security services would be granted “real time” access to phone and internet records of people they want to put under surveillance, as well as the ability to reconstruct their movements through the information stored in the databases.

The system would track “who, when and where” of each message, allowing extremely close surveillance.

Mobile phone records of calls and texts show within yards where a call was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing histories can be matched to a computer’s “IP address”, which can be used to locate where it was sent.

The scheme is a revised version of a plan drawn up by the Labour government which would have created a central database of all the information…

Labour shelved the project – known as the Intercept Modernisation Programme – in November 2009 after a consultation showed it had little public support…

But the security services have now won a battle to have the scheme revived because of their concern over the ability of terrorists to avoid conventional surveillance through modern technology.

They can make use of phone tapping but their ability to monitor email traffic and text messages is limited.

They are known to have lobbied Theresa May, the Home Secretary, strongly for the scheme. Their move comes ahead of the London Olympics, which they fear will be a major target for terror attacks, and amid a climate of concern about terrorists’ use of the internet.

… Sources said ministers are planning to allocate legislative time to the new spy programme, called the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), in the Queen’s Speech in May.

But last night privacy campaigners warned the scheme was too open to abuse and could be used for “fishing trips” by spies.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil liberties campaign organisation, said: “This would be a systematic effort to spy on all of our digital communications.

“The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats started their government with a big pledge to roll back the surveillance state.

No state in history has been able to gather the level of information proposed – it’s a way of collecting everything about who we talk to just in case something turns up.”

There were also concerns about the ability of phone and Internet companies to keep the information secure.

And the huge databases could also be used by Internet service providers, particularly to work out which advertising to target at users.

Broadband firms including BT came up with a scheme almost three years ago to target advertising, but it did not get off the ground.

However, if companies were able to exploit the information they will be compelled to keep for the CCDP, they would be much more capable of delivering advertising to computers and even mobile phones based on users’ past behaviour.

Gus Hosein, of Privacy International, said: “This will be ripe for hacking. Every hacker, every malicious threat, every foreign government is going to want access to this.

“And if communications providers have a government mandate to start collecting this information they will be incredibly tempted to start monitoring this data themselves so they can compete with Google and Facebook.”

… from the Telegraph