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

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” )

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
Internet Society India Chennai

The Internet Society Fellowship to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

IETF fellowship

About the IETF

The IETF (along with its related organizations) is a large, open, international community of network designers, operators, vendor experts, researchers, and other interested technologists. While much of the IETF’s work takes place through mailing lists, there are three physical IETF meetings each year. The in-person experience of IETF meetings can help promote a stronger understanding of the standardization process, encourage active involvement in IETF work, and facilitate personal networking with others who have similar technical interests.

The Fellowship Award

Internet Society Fellows to the IETF receive the following assistance:
  • travel, accommodation, meeting registration fees, and a ticket to the IETF social event;
  • introduction to a mentor from their area of interest to help them prepare for the meeting, network with other experts, and successfully navigate the week-long meeting;
  • a stipend for incidental expenses; and
  • a certificate of participation.

Expectations for the Fellows

Internet Engineering Task ForceInternet Society Fellows are expected to:
  • prepare in advance of the IETF meeting by reading relevant IETF documents and working- group discussions in their areas of interest;
  • attend the IETF newcomers tutorial, plenary sessions, and working-group sessions throughout the week;
  • share the experience and knowledge gained at the IETF with their local communities when they return home (including writing a report on the activities);
  • participate in the NGL programme participant network; and
  • assist with administrative aspects of the programme, including completion of a follow-up survey.

When are the Fellowships available?

Fellowships are available for each of the three IETF meetings held each year. See the IETF web site for the meeting schedule.

Who should apply?

Internet Society Fellowships to the IETF are for Internet Society members from emerging or developing economies who have the technical skills and experience to contribute to the work of the IETF.

Selection criteria

Selection for the Fellowships is competitive. All applicants must be members of the Internet Society and must meet the selection criteria.
Please note, no age limits apply to Fellowships to the IETF.

How to apply

Applications are now open for:
March 10 – 15, 2013
Orlando, FL, USA
July 28 – August 2, 2013
Berlin, Germany
Prior to applying for the ISOC Fellowship to the IETF, we recommend that you download the Self Assessment Worksheet to ensure that you are able get to the necessary documentation in which to be able to travel to an IETF meeting.
For first time applicants (those who have never been awarded an ISOC Fellowship to the IETF before), you can apply here.
For applicants that have previously been awarded an ISOC Fellowship to the IETF and wish to apply as a Returning Fellow, you can apply here.

Timeline for IETF 86/87 Application Review and Selection

  • Sept. 4: Applications open for ISOC Fellowship to the IETF
  • Oct. 1: Application period closes
  • Oct. 2: Committee begins review and evaluation of applications
  • Nov. 4: Final selections made
  • Nov. 5 Notifications sent out to applicants

For more information follows the links above, or write to isocindiachennai (aT) gmail dot com

India Internet Governance Conference

On October 4 and 5, 2012, India’s first comprehensive multistakeholder India Internet Governance Conference (IIGC 2012) – Internet for Social and Economic Development: Building the Future Together, will take place in New Delhi. Following the format provided since 2006 by the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – an annual global event – the Conference aims to provide a platform for an open and inclusive policy dialogue that involves government, business, civil society, the technical community and academia. It will traverse a wide range of topics: from network neutrality, to global internet governance models; from effective management of the transition to IPv6, to making broadband access available to all; from the challenges the internet poses to traditional media, to the challenges hate speech online poses for all.  Bringing together multiple sources of knowledge and expertise from within India and outside, the IIGC thus aims to identify crucial emerging issues at a domestic and global level and flag these for the attention of relevant Indian bodies, as well as help expand India’s existing internet governance capacity.

Timing and drivers of the Conference

The immediate background to the conference is two-fold. With the release of the National Telecom Policy 2012 (NTP 2012), the internet and broadband have earned recognition as key drivers of economic and social development, along with telecom, in an increasingly knowledge-intensive global environment in which India aims to play a leadership role. The policy aims at delivering “Broadband on Demand” in the hope that this can become a platform for services in e-Commerce and e-Governance in key social sectors such as education and agriculture, in addition to expanding the footprint of these services and fostering an atmosphere of a participative, democratic delivery model that is citizen centric. Acknowledging the importance of internet access for all, the Policy specifically seeks to deliver Broadband access to all village panchayats through a combination of technologies by 2014 and progressively to all villages and habitations by 2020. The government of India has committed an investment of roughly Rs. 20 000 crore by 2014 for the achievement of this target. Close and immediate engagement of all stakeholders in the internet policy field is vital in order to maximise this important emerging opportunity of making internet access for all a reality.

The timing of the conference also allows for a discussion ahead of the IGF in Baku in November 2012 and the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai in December 2012. Among the range of vital issues that will be discussed at these events is the future of the global internet governance architecture – a debate in which the Indian government has been closely involved. For example, following the IGF meeting in Hyderabad in 2008, India continued its close engagement with the Forum by playing a crucial role in the discussions regarding its continuation, advocating a more outcome-oriented process. In 2011, the Indian government took its proposal a step further by proposing in the UN General Assembly a new institutional mechanism for internet governance, the Committee on Internet Related Policies (CIRP). Despite the Indian government taking a leadership position in these debates at the global level, within the country, discussions on these proposals and the direction global internet governance architecture should take have begun only recently. With the ITU-convened WCIT now also seeking to bring aspects of internet governance within its ambit, a detailed debate across the nation on the question of what shape the global internet governance architecture should take is critical.

Outcome Oriented Launch of a Continued Dialogue

Against the backdrop of these two important evolutions, the IIGC will thus provide for a distinct domestic flavor to the typical challenges that India faces as well as sufficient latitude for a robust discussion on globally relevant issues. In addition, the IIGC is the first attempt to build a multistakeholder dialogue in India that can provide systematic input into processes at the global IGF from which it draws inspiration. It is our hope, however, that the dialogue will not stop with this event. As experiments elsewhere have shown, national IGF-related processes can be a key avenue through which to foster dialogue and engagement across stakeholders and to develop robust national internet governance policies that find broad acceptance amongst the citizenry. The IIGC, and the budding multistakeholder organisational processes that feed into it, will hopefully be only the beginning of such a long-term engagement in India, that ultimately will result in a full-fledged India IGF in future years.

For more information or write to isocindiachennai (aT) gmail dot com

Russia And China want the Internet regulated Top-Down


For all the talk of SOPA/PIPA/ACTA/TPP, there’s another much bigger threat to “the Internet as we know it.” It’s a bunch of countries who are seeking to use the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to create a top-down regulatory scheme for the Internet.

# ITU has made persistent attempts to take over many of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) and the ICANN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers) functions; its game plan is to charm a few countries into a design that would result in Governments handing over all Internet functions to the Telecom Business Union.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell’s opinion in the Wall Street Journal The UN Threat to Internet, summarizes the developments.

  • Subject cyber security and data privacy to international control;
  • Allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for “international” Internet traffic, perhaps even on a “per-click” basis for certain Web destinations, with the goal of generating revenue for state-owned phone companies and government treasuries;
  • Impose unprecedented economic regulations such as mandates for rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated traffic-swapping agreements known as “peering.”
  • Establish for the first time ITU dominion over important functions of multi-stakeholder Internet governance entities such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity that coordinates the .com and .org Web addresses of the world;
  • Subsume under intergovernmental control many functions of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society and other multi-stakeholder groups that establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work;
  • Regulate international mobile roaming rates and practices.

Again this attempt … is to give certain governments much more control over how the Internet is used… and not in a good way.  The Internet thrives today in large part because it’s not controlled by governments, no matter how much they’ve slowly tried to encroach (and the US is particularly guilty of that lately).

The fact that this effort is mainly being led by Russia and China should give you a sense of the intentions here. Neither country is particularly well-known for supporting the principles of open communications or freedom of speech.

As part of this conversation, we should underscore the tremendous benefits that the Internet has yielded for the developing world through the multi-stakeholder model.

Altering this model with a new regulatory treaty is likely to partition the Internet as some countries would inevitably choose to opt out. A balkanized Internet would be devastating to global free trade and national sovereignty. It would impair Internet growth most severely in the developing world, but also globally as technologists are forced to seek bureaucratic permission to innovate and invest. This would also undermine the proliferation of new cross-border technologies, such as cloud computing.

A top-down, centralized, international regulatory overlay is antithetical to the architecture of the Net, which is a global network of networks without borders. No government, let alone an intergovernmental body, can make engineering and economic decisions in lightning-fast Internet time. Productivity, rising living standards and the spread of freedom everywhere, but especially in the developing world, would grind to a halt as engineering and business decisions become politically paralyzed within a global regulatory body.

Any attempts to expand intergovernmental powers over the Internet—no matter how incremental or seemingly innocuous—should be turned back. Modernization and reform can be constructive, but not if the end result is a new global bureaucracy that departs from the multi-stakeholder model.

(This is a TechDirt report from PayAttention Department, quoting Robert MacDowell’s opinion on the Wall Street Journal .  Mostly excerpts with some edits for the readers of this blog; Comments are not to be taken as endorsed by Internet Society India Chennai – Sivasubramanian M)