Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Net Neutrality in India

On 27 March 2015, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a formal consultation paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services, seeking feedback from the public. By 14 April 2015, over 300,000 emails had been sent to TRAI demanding net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Internet service providers (ISPs) and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, and the Internet user should not be discriminated or charged differentially for using content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. 

The main feature of net neutrality inclues all sites must be equally accessible, the same access speed at the telco/ISP level for each (independent of telco selection), and the same data cost for access to each site. 
In simple terms net neutrality means 
No blocking: If a consumer requests access to a website or a service, ISPs should not be permitted to block it, enabling every player “gets a fair shot at your business.
No throttling: ISPs should not intentionally slow down some content or speed up others based on the type of service or their preferences.
Increased transparency:  The connection between consumers and ISPs is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. Hence, if necessary, FCC should apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
No paid prioritization: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. 
In India net neutrality recently became a hot issue to debate when Airtel announced in December 2014 to charge additional rates for making Voice over IP (VoIP) from its network using apps like WhatsApp, Skype, etc.
In February 2012, at the World Mobile Congress held in Barcelona, the CEO of Bharti Airtel, Sunil Bharti Mittal suggested that services like YouTube should pay an interconnect charge to network operators.
In July 2012, Bharti Airtel's Director of Network Services, Jagbir Singh suggested that large internet companies like Facebook and Google should share revenues with telecom companies because internet companies are making big profits from small investments, whereas the telecom companies have invested hugely in building that networks. He also suggested to establish interconnection charges for data services. 
In February 2013, Killi Kruparani, Union Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology, said that the government would look into the legality of VoIP services.In June 2013, Bharti Airtel began offering certain Google services for free to its cellular broadband users, with a limit of 1GB on the free data. 
In August 2014, TRAI rejected a proposal from telecom companies to make messaging application firms share part of their revenue with the carriers or the government. In October 2014, Vodafone India Marten Pieters CEO suggested that companies like Facebook and Whatsapp should be taxed to ensure a level playing field with telecom operators. 
In December 2014, Airtel changed its service terms for 2G and 3G data packs so that VoIP data was excluded from the set amount of free data. The TRAI chief Rahul Khullar said that Airtel cannot be held responsible for violating net neutrality because India has no regulation that demands net neutrality. Airtel's move faced criticism on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Later on 29 December 2014, Airtel announced that it would not be implementing planned changes, pointing out that there were reports that TRAI would be soon releasing a consultation paper on the issue. Khullar said TRAI was preparing a consultation paper on regulating OTT services to level the playing field. OTT firms will have to apply for licenses and share revenue with the government.
On 10 February 2015, Facebook launched Internet.org in India with Reliance Communications. It aims to provide free access to 38 websites through an app. Only Bing was made available as the search engine. Sunil Mittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel, criticised the concept and said, "If you are going to make the data free, then let's do completely philanthropic projects. Government must make spectrum free, there should be free network, but it is not happening."
In April 2015, Airtel announced the "Airtel Zero" scheme. Under the scheme, app firms sign a contract and Airtel provides the apps for free to its customers. The reports of Flipkart, an e-commerce firm, joining the "Airtel Zero" scheme drew negative response. People began to give the one-star rating to its app on Google Play. Following the protests Flipkart decided to pull out of Airtel Zero. The e-commerce firm confirmed the news in an official statement on 14 April, saying, "We will be walking away from the ongoing discussions with Airtel for their platform Airtel Zero". Other telecom operators are playing a cautious game and keeping them away from commenting on this sensitive issue.
According to Rajiv Gupta, Partner and Director, BCG net neutrality is a fair concept but it must take into account the concerns of telecom operators and ensure that their revenue and margins are not significantly impacted. He suggested for some kind of middle path. 
Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director, Centre for Internet and Society, said, “The need for net neutrality is very real and urgent. There are many practices that telecom companies are trying to engage in, such as blocking of WhatsApp to force customers to pay more money for it, which ought not to be allowed.”
A Member of the Parliament from Odisha, Tathagata Satpathy, wrote an open letter to TRAI in support of net neutrality. The Communication and Information Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on 7 April said that a committee will be formed to study the net neutrality issue. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Member of the Parliament, had also supported net neutrality. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) chairman, Ashok Chawla, said that they were examining whether these practices were unfair. The Department of Telecommunication also said that they were investigating the matter.
On 11 April 2015, All India Bakchod (AIB), an Indian comedy group founded by Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhat uploaded a video titled "Save The Internet" which urged people to email TRAI demanding net neutrality. The video was re-shared on Twitter by numerous netizens and various Indian actors.
In conclusion we can say that in India there are no laws which govern net neutrality. Most of companies prefer net neutrality. TRAI also put focus on net neutrality but due to lack of proper rules and regulations, some companies may voilate the essence of net neutrality.
Source: http://cablequest.org/articles/item/6925-net-neutrality-in-india.html

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