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

Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum: Call for proposals

Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum
APrIGF 2015 Macau
30 Jun3 Jul 2015
Venetian Hotel Macao
Open Call for Themes and Workshop Proposals
Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) is one of the key regional initiatives on Internet governance which provides an open platform for multi-stakeholders to discuss and identify issues and priorities, and ultimately advances the development of Internet governance in the Asia Pacific region as well as bring forward and contribute to the wider global Internet community.
Hosted by HNET.Asia, the registry for the ccTLD of Macau (.mo), APrIGF 2015 will be held from 30 Jun (Tue) to 3 Jul (Fri) at the Venetian Hotel Macao in conjunction with an annual local telecommunications event – CommuniMacao (3-5 Jul). With the many recent developments of the Internet such as the IANA stewardship transition and the discussion of post-2015 development agenda, etc, APrIGF 2015 will definitely be the good platform for all these important discussions.
Our Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group(MSG) now would like to call upon the community to contribute to the program development process and suggest any thematic issues or topic of discussions as well as pre-events or workshop proposals for 2015!
Online Submission Form: (http://2015.rigf.asia/theme-submissions/)
Thematic Suggestion Deadline: 4 Dec 2014 (Thu)
Workshop Proposal Submission Deadline: 11 Mar 2015 (Wed)
**Travel support will be available with partial subsidies provided to selected APrIGF delegates. An application process will be announced in due course.
If you have any enquiries, please feel free to contact Internet Society India Chennai isocindiachennai@gmail.com or the secretariat at sec@aprigf.asia.
If you are interested to follow any news and updates about APrIGF and discuss relevant issues, you may subscribe to the mailing list discuss@aprigf.asia by sending in subscription request.
We also welcome any Internet-related organisation to become a sponsor. Please contact sec@aprigf.asia for more information.
Best Regards,
Secretariat of APrIGF
Asia Pacific rIGF, Macau
Asia Pacific Regional IGF Macau

Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APRIGF) 2014 in India

The Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) 2014 is hosted in New Delhi along with SANOG 24th Edition and Youth Internet Governance Forum (YIGF) 2014 in the Hotel Crown Plaza, Greater Noida from 1st August to 9th August, 2014.

Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) has been held annually since initiated in 2010 in Hong Kong. The APrIGF serves as a platform for aggregating IGF related discussions and collaborations at the regional level, which ultimately advances the Internet governance development in Asia Pacific.

The main theme of APRIGF 2014 is “Internet to Equinet – An Equitable Internet for the Next Billion!”, with the accelerating demand in Asia for internet addresses, Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum, provides a multi-stakeholder platform with the emphasis on the diversity of participants and openness of the discussion.

For More Details on the Events and Schedule, Please visit: www.aprigf.asia

Join us on a letter to the Government of India to keep the Internet Free and Open

Recently the National Telecommunications and Information Association of United States announced its intention to step down from this role of oversight by asking the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS).

The Government of India provided the following input, signed by Shri J Satyanarayana, Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, whom I have an occasion to meet at the Internet Governance Forum at Baku, Azerbaizan two years ago.  The Comments at the end of this post on the Government’s input are presented here respectfully.

Download the PDF file Government of India inputs on IANA transition.

The PDF file above documents the Government’s views. What follows below is a write up on relevant history and the key issues, followed by quotes of the Governments inputs with my comments.

Internet was invented and architectured by the work of the Technical Community; The Internet has emerged as a Global medium connecting users from around the world, without any inherent discrimination on economic or social status or geographic origin. Internet Governance is taking shape as a Global process on the Multi-Stakeholder model. In Internet and Internet Governance, the stakeholders are Government, Civil Society (representing the average Internet User), Business, the Academic Community, the Technical Community and International Organizations. Multi-stakeholder process is a process wherein all these Stakeholders are seated equally around the table to formulate policy on Internet Governance.

The Internet Names (Domain names such as .com, .net etc.) and the Critical functions related to the Stability and Security of the Domain Names System are coordinated by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as a Global Organization with participation of Stakeholders from around the world. The Internet Numbers (the IP addresses assigned to every Internet Connection) and the Root Servers (Computers that store the ‘addresses’ of networks and domain names, with hundreds of identical ‘mirror’ computers around the world) have been managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The functions of IANA have been technically coordinated by ICANN, but these IANA functions have so far been subjected to overall U.S. oversight.

ICANN came into existence in 1998 and it functions as a Global Multi-Stakeholder Organization. Over 100 Nation States are part of the Governmental Advisory Committee and meet three times a year at ICANN; Over 150 User Organizations are part of ICANN At-Large and participate in ICANN policy through the At-Large Advisory Committee as also through the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group; Business participants, including Internet Service Providers and Domain Name Companies and other Businesses are broadly grouped under the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO); Country Code Domain Names such as .IN (for India), .DE (for Germany), and .cn (for China) participate under the Country Code Supporting Organization (ccNSO); ICANN now has Hub Offices in Los Angeles, Singapore and Turkey and Engagement Offices at China, Belgium, Switzerland, Uruguay and South Korea;  Other offices are being planned, possibly including one in India; ICANN  has a multi-cultural, Gloabl staff, has a Global Multi-Stakeholder Board.

ICANN has taken shape so well, exceedingly well, in its infancy of its first 15 years of Operations. Further Internationalization and further evolution of its Mutli-Stakeholder model and its Accountability and Transparency mechanisms happen continuously, to address areas of concern in its Governance processes.

ICANN process are Open, Participative, Transparent and in Global Public Interest. Stakeholders from around the world participate with no restrictions on participation. (If you are interested in ICANN issues, irrespective of your Nationality or Stakeholder affiliation, you can walk into one of the three ICANN meetings every year, you will be seated equally, you could join a policy discussion on Day 1, offer your views, your views will be recorded, transcribed and circulated for all of ICANN to listen, and include as inputs and perhaps decide on the basis of what you have said. Alternately you could subscribe to the email lists and join the Global participants to discuss policy and programs). This is the way ICANN has been governed and it is the way ICANN continues to operate.

Internet has evolved and it connects users globally WITHOUT any form of centralized control, but some functions of Internet Governance have been coordinated by  ICANN  (Names and Numbers), Internet Society (ISOC) ( Evolution, Policy),  Internet Engineering Task Force – IETF (Internet Technical Standards by Open, Participatory Global processes) and the Worldwide Web Consortitum –  W3C (World Wide Web Standards).

The International Telecommunication Union which controls all forms of Communication except the Internet has been vocal about its intent to take over Internet Governance, and a few Nation States directly or indirectly express views that are aligned to that of the ITU. Some of the proposals from Russia, China and other countries favor a model of Internet Governance controlled by the Governments, and these proposals include creation of Governance mechanisms in the U.N. environment which implies a greater role for the ITU, or even directly further ITU’s aspirations for a controlling role of the Internet.

Unlike the ICANN processes, the ITU processes are procedurally complex, modeled on Inter-Governmental procedure bound-processes that are closed.  A greater role for ITU would imply an Internet controlled by Governments enhanced for Telecom revenues. The Internet offers a level playing field for all users across the world, does not discriminate between a Big Business or a small user, there are no fast lanes for Internet traffic that would, for example, send an email from a Big Business CEO faster than an email from an average user in India. Any one from any part of the world, or any Business, big or small, can establish any application (for example, a search engine, a shopping portal, or a Social Network or any Innovative Application, without the need for permission from anyone. This is the eco-system of Permissionless Innovation. This eco-system offers the greatest hope for Developing countries like India for progress and prosperity. This environment could change if the Internet Governance moves anywhere closer to the ITU environment.

In this background, Government of India has provided Inputs on IANA transition from U.S. Government oversight to ICANN, as in the PDF above, copied below, with some of my comments as an individual:

All comments as an individual who believes that other Stakeholder groups in India might have a position different from that expressed in this document by the Government of India. What I see as problem areas are shown in text colored orange, based on my own perception of the sensitivity of the wording. The differences with the positions of the Government are freely and openly expressed here with the belief that our Government would tolerate this freedom of expression from someone who believes in the multi-stakeholder process of Internet Governance 🙂

[1] Government of India notes the announcement by the US NTIA of its intent to transition its role on coordination of Internet DNS as a first step in the right direction aimed at attempting to reform one of the aspects of Internet Governance.

“evolve” would have been a milder choice. Why does the Government of India use the word “reform” here?

2. In continuation of India’s commitment to maintain an open, safe and secure Internet,and as a key stakeholder in the global internet space, India will engage constructively and actively with other important stakeholders to develop a transition proposal that is representative, democratic and transparent.

The reference to “India’s commitment to maintain an open, safe and secure Internet” is very positive. Interesting to see how the word “stakeholder” is used here. Does India imply that India as a country is a Stakeholder, thereby hinting at an inclination to classify Stakeholders as Nation States (represented by Governments only?) It looks like the Government of India is talking about multilateralism (Internet Governance only by Governments) here using the very word “stakeholder”.

3. The announcement is a recognition of the Widety held View that this aspect of internet Governance, as also others, needs to be made representative, democratic and that inclusive and the institutions responsible for managing and regulating the internet need to be Internationalised.

The choice of words “representative” and “democratic” are words apparently positive, especially for anyone who does not understand the diplomatic significance of these words in the context of the history of Internet and internet Governance. These words are used to emphasize multilateral governance in place of multi-stakeholder governance. Internet Governance needs to be a multi-stakeholder process, whereby Civil Society, Business and Technical Community would be stakeholders together with Governments in Internet Governance.

4. lndia believes that the transitional proposal should have a proper international legislative authority for it to have legitimacy, credibility and acceptability by the international community.

Very uncomfortable with what is implied by a “proper international legislative authority”. Perhaps the Government of India adores the ITU?

5. Efforts to frame a transition proposal are an initial move towards addressing only one aspect of Internet Governance. While India would actively participate in this process, We do not see it subsuming discussions and considerations that are taking place elsewhere in multilateral fora and international mechanism on the management of the Core Internet Resources and on the entire of range of International Public Policies in the Cyber Space.

What Multilateral fora is referred to here that the Government of India does not “see it subsuming” ?

6. As We, along with other stakeholders Work to develop a transition plan,ICANN shouid ensure that the process is representative anc! democratic. There should be full participation of all the stakeholders in accordance with Tunis agenda.

Does the Government of India here implies Other Governments? This reference to Stakeholders, read together with the way the word “stakeholder” is used to denote a whole country in point [1] could mean that India implies “other Governments” here.

Sivasubramanian M

Signing this post to indicate that all views in this post are views as an individual. Posted here to invite quick comments from Chapter Members, by email to isocindiachennai@gmail.com.  You could send a mail simply to say You agree, Or, write your views, it would be valuable.  Or, if you have different views you might say so. I intend to write to our Government on this, after a rough consensus on this based on your response.