Net neutrality should prevail

My answers to TRAI questions

Disclaimer: It's my view as a common man. I am no law man or an expert in this.
Just my thoughts only.


Image source: www.digitalinformationworld.com

Dear Sir,
Internet is such a boon to India. How the mobile phone revolutionized India bringing everyone together, internet has been and is growing the same way for couple of years now. Helping a few big guns and undermining the start ups is such a terrible thing to do in a country like India especially when make in India is our campaign. I sincerely request you to maintain the net neutrality like it is in the rest of the world.

  Question 1: Is it too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services, since internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are generally low and there is limited coverage of high-speed broadband in the country? Or, should some beginning be made now with a regulatory framework that could be adapted to changes in the future? Please comment with justifications. 
Ans:  India is still a developing economy where lot of people are still illiterate. But every person uses the internet. Every person knows what it is. As a doctor I see patients come to me with a partial solution to their problem. It doesn't cure them but they can at least know the gravity of the situation. What if the access to that website is blocked because he doesn't have those services? Possible, right? It's just an example. Internet is just a medium. It just cannot be regulated. I never faced any network sluggishness because the servers were overloaded. The services provided by telecom operators are bad. Before 3G came in, EDGE was fast enough as my daily requirement. Now with EDGE you can barely access a webpage. 

Question 2: Should the OTT players offering communication services (voice, messaging and video call services) through applications (resident either in the country or outside) be brought under the licensing regime? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: Voice messaging and video calls should not be regulated by telecom operators at all. Internet is not their medium. Internet is for all. Robert and Vent when they developed internet did not regulate it and it has grown into a huge medium. Internet offers a wide range of opportunities for a common man. Whatsapp became famous because they could provide an amazing service which SMS of telecom operators could not provide. If they need to fight it they should become competitive. A common man like me should not be burdened. If, for example, skype wants to charge for the services they provide, they have all the right to do so. But Airtel can't charge me because I am using Skype instead of voice calls on Airtel network. It's cheating beyond imagination.

Question 3: Is the growth of OTT impacting the traditional revenue stream of TSPs? If so, is the increase in data revenues of the TSPs sufficient to compensate for this impact? Please comment with reasons. 
Ans: Every thing has a rise and a fall. It's just survival of the fittest. Telecom providers had their time when no other service could provide such facilities. Internet came in and now the trend is shifting. The internet can not be regulated by the same people for their own benefit. I still make voice calls much more than the video calls on my phone. 80% of the money I spend on my phone is for the call and messages. 20% is for my internet. They can't encroach upon that 20% and try to make an extra buck from that.

Question 4: Should the OTT players pay for use of the TSPs network over and above data charges paid by consumers? If yes, what pricing options can be adopted? Could such options include prices based  on bandwidth consumption? Can prices be used as a means of product/service differentiation? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: This question can be answered only if the stats are provided to me. Unless a specific service cripples the network I don't think they can put the burden or the losses or the lesser profits they are making on the OTT players or the consumer. Internet is free for everyone. The seller and the buyer. It just cannot be regulated especially in democratic country like ours.

Question 5: Do you agree that imbalances exist in the regulatory environment in the operation of OTT players? If so, what should be the framework to address these issues? How can the prevailing laws and regulations be applied to OTT players (who operate in the virtual world) and compliance enforced? What could be the impact on the economy? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: Internet can not be regulated. The players who are doing well are because they were innovative and struggled their way up. Like everyone they pay their taxes and everything. Virtual players are not ghosts. I think these rules can not exist in a developing economy like India especially when rest of the world still believes in net neutrality. I think it's a shame if net neutrality is abolished in India especially because of the interests of some big players.

Question 6: How should the security concerns be addressed with regard to OTT players providing communication services? What security conditions such as maintaining data records, logs etc. need to be mandated for such OTT players? And, how can compliance with these conditions be ensured if the applications of such OTT players reside outside the country? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: The stuff on internet can not be regulated. I think however you try to have regulate it, it can just not happen.

 Question 7: How should the OTT players offering app services ensure security, safety and privacy of the consumer? How should they ensure protection of consumer interest? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: Bio-metric scan and voice verification probably have to be the standard and at the time of registration probably they have to cross check with the bio-metric scans of the Aadhar card. 

Question 8: In what manner can the proposals for a regulatory framework for OTTs in India draw from those of ETNO, referred to in para 4.23 or the best practices summarised in para 4.29? And, what practices should be proscribed by regulatory fiat? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: I am not sure how these stuff can fit in. If the communication services are being charged they should not charge for the data used. The communication services should still be at the bare minimum probably a little more than the internet charges and as fair play the OTT player should receive it or the Telecom and Internet service providers have to be two different things.

Question 9: What are your views on net-neutrality in the Indian context? How should the various principles discussed in para 5.47 be dealt with? Please comment with justifications. 
Ans: Net neutrality should be there because it not only gives the consumer what he's getting into but also knows what he's paying for and how reliable the service being provided by OTT player is. India by itself is corrupted from the roots. If the net neutrality is killed this way then I think it would become like any other system in the country. So far internet has been free in India. Imagine if it is regulated as it is in China or Pakistan or other similar countries. How does it make us democratic? How are we better than them?

Question 10: What forms of discrimination or traffic management practices are reasonable and consistent with a pragmatic approach? What should or can be permitted? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: No discrimination can be made. If the network becomes congested, a panel should be made to analyse the internet usage and which service is crippling the network with complete transparency and panel involving not only from TRAI and Telecom operators but also from the public. This panel should analyse and let the people decide the best thing for the industry. Then probably telecom operators should sit and make deals with the OTT players and come to terms. The internet service providers can not take the revenue from this. Suppose, facebook jams the internet then Facebook will be questioned by the Airtel and Facebook will pay Airtel for any upgrades necessary. In turn Facebook can charge the customer or bring in more ads on the page. Then the consumer has still the option of choosing between facebook or other service on the same Airtel network. What if Airtel itself charges for every OTT service used. The consumer is crippled. It's just not fair!

Question 11: Should the TSPs be mandated to publish various traffic management techniques used for different OTT applications? Is this a sufficient condition to ensure transparency and a fair regulatory regime? 
Ans: Yes. They have to publish the traffic details very transparently. Experts need to evaluate it. They also need to provide what extra effort they have put in to relieve the congestion. What other countries with similar problems have done for such a problem. Why not provide extra wifi hotspots in major congested areas and free the traffic? Major cities all over the world have wifi hotspots everywhere. 

Question 12: How should the conducive and balanced environment be created such that TSPs are able to invest in network infrastructure and CAPs are able to innovate and grow? Who should bear the network upgradation costs? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: Network upgrade costs have to be borne by the telecom operators themselves. Unless and until they provide the cutting edge facilities which are available in the rest of the world people will not be ready to shell out a penny more than what they are paying now and it's not even fair to ask for more. If I need to bring in more people to avail my services I need to give them a reason. Just like that.

Question 13: Should TSPs be allowed to implement non-price based discrimination of services? If so, under what circumstances are such practices acceptable? What restrictions, if any, need to be placed so that such measures are not abused? What measures should be adopted to ensure transparency to consumers? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: No discrimination can be made whatsoever. Everyone has to have their share. If I start a website I should have the same opportunity and power to bring in more people to my page based on the content I provide, not because my telecom operator thought so.

Question 14: Is there a justification for allowing differential pricing for data access and OTT  communication services? If so, what changes need to be brought about in the present tariff and regulatory framework for telecommunication services in the country? Please comment with justifications. 
Ans: Differential pricing for net access is the main culprit for killing net neutrality. It should not be encouraged no matter what! If 3G services are being provided charge for the whole pack as a whole. No differential pricing should be allowed. We are the second highest internet users in the world. When the world is moving towards 5G we still are paying high price for 3G. There are hardly any wifi hotspots in the country.

Question 15: Should OTT communication service players be treated as Bulk User of Telecom Services (BuTS)? How should the framework be structured to prevent any discrimination and protect stakeholder interest? Please comment with justification.
Ans: This thing solely depends on the security of the nation. The defence and cybersecurity have to jump in and they need to regulate and make demands of the minimum requirements. I think even here telecom operators have no say. If the security is the problem and revenue has to be made from the communication OTTs, the money has to go for tightening and upgrading cyber security in the country and has to be totally transparent.

Question 16: What framework should be adopted to encourage Indiaspecific OTT apps? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: This is definitely beyond me. Programmers can only answer this.

Question 17: If the OTT communication service players are to be licensed, should they be categorised as ASP or CSP? If so, what should be the framework? Please comment with justifications.  
Ans: No idea.

Question 18: Is there a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services? Please comment with justifications.
Ans: No the teleccom operators have no say. The OTT communication service providers and the TRAI and the cyber security have to decide what is to be done. Subscription charges can never go to the telecom operators.

Question 19: What steps should be taken by the Government for regulation of non-communication OTT players? Please comment with justifications. 
Ans: Non-communication OTT players can not be regulated by the government. It's just like any other library. There are no specific guidelines for the maintenance of libraries and there should be none for the non-communication OTT as well.

Question 20: Are there any other issues that have a bearing on the subject discussed?
Ans: TRAI has to put it's foot down like it's done in many a situation and should not let the Telecom Operators and big OTT players decide what an average consumer can see or avail. It's purely a discretion of the consumer and consumer alone. When you go to a shopping market, you don't pay extra money to enter the APPLE counter or a Samsung counter. It should be equal for all.

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