Please Prime Minister: Sack or tame TRAI’s official(s) to save internet-freedom

To,

Hon’ble Prime Minister of India

We wish to bring to your notice the following urgent matter relating to TRAI, which is a sinister move on the part of this Authority against the interests of general public, and request you to ensure that this Authority is not allowed to go ahead with its moves.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is a worried institution today over the fact that the international telecommunication corporations like Skype, Viber, YouTube, Microsoft, DailyMotion etc. are providing to their Indian customers free (Voice-over-Internet-Protocol) services like video conferences, telephony, videos, films, e-mail, news etc. around the globe over the Internet Data Packages (IDP) purchased by these Indian customers from their Indian Internet Service Providers (ISPs). As the Indian telecommunication companies charge money for providing these Voice-over-Internet-Protocol services, Indian customers have turned their allegiance from these Indian companies to the international telecommunication corporations offering free services. TRAI is a worried institution because on account of this shifting of allegiance these Indian companies are losing heavy revenue.

TRAI has a statutory mandate to regulate the telecommunication industries to serve the interests of Indian public. The law under which TRAI is constituted does not countenance that it serve the interests of these industries as opposed to those of the public.

The question is: How to save these Indian telecommunication industries from their death in the face of the current onslaught by the giant international telecommunication corporations? Also, the question is: How to serve the interests of Indian public? Plainly, there is a conflict of interests between the Indian industries and the Indian public. Can there be a framework to resolve this conflict or some guideline to be followed by TRAI in resolving this issue?

But before attempting to answer these questions, let us first analyze the impact of the suggestions made by TRAI in its working paper to resolve this problem. These suggestions are available here (http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReaddata/ConsultationPaper/Document/OTT-CP-27032015.pdf). They are couched in a cumbersome language with factors brought in that have no relevance to the economic wisdom followed by the rising India today. Please go through them. There are 20 questions posed by TRAI to stake-holders and answers of them are sought to be sent to it by 14th of April, 2015. Internet has empowered people by giving them the power to express and bring a democratic change. It has made them free of the corporate media, print and electronic both, in the real sense. The Indian public is the greatest stake-holders in deciding the future of internet and TRAI cannot be allowed to rough-shod them.

The suggestion being put forward is that the data should be priced according to the kind of use it is put to by its consumer. Though the “internet data” is one “single kind” of electronic stream of digits 0 and 1, it can be used to send many kinds of information (video, text, images, audio etc.), depending upon the state of development of technology. It is just like the petrol can be used to propel car or scooter or plane or water pump; like a potato can be used to make uncle-chips or pakora or samosa or vegetable or finger-chips; like a bucket of water can be used to quench the thirst or to bath or to wash cloths or to wash a car or to make a glass of sharbat. The suggestion of TRAI is that the price of the petrol, potato, water etc. should be fixed according to the use a consumer puts it to. It is the highest degree of non-sense; it is protectionism of the inferior; it is killing the innovation. Our country has adopted a “Mantra” – a philosophy – to achieve its economic development: “Either perform or perish”. Here, there is no place for incompetence. Why can’t you – Indian companies – offer FREE services to consumers in video, audio, text etc. when others like Skype, Viber, Microsoft are providing the same? Perform or perish! To be honest, let you, sir the Prime Minister of India, make this loud and clear to these Indian companies and TRAI!!

India has a great pool, in fact no less than any other country in the world, of knowledge in the field of information technology. Our young people are employed by these very foreign corporations running the free services like Skype, YouTube etc. The need on the part of the government is to open financial resources of this country to these young people so that they also may offer similar or even better free services to the general public rather than TRAI’s attempt to bail out inferior Indian companies who are insistent on charging money for such services by forcing the public to “pay as per the kind of use” for data.

TRAI has asked 20 questions from the stake-holders. Indian public is the greatest stake-holders, which is going to be adversely effected by the TRAI’s move. We state here how TRAi is moving in this matter, for your immediate intervention in the matter by either sacking or taming the official(s) of TRAI.

TELECOM REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF INDIA

Consultation Paper No: 2/2015

Consultation Paper On Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services

27th March, 2015

Stakeholders are requested to send their comments preferably in electronic form by 24th April, 2015 and counter comments by 8 th May 2015 on email id advqos@trai.gov.in. For any clarification / information, Shri A. Robert. J. Ravi, Advisor (TD & QoS) may be contacted at Tel. No. +91-11-23230404, Fax: +91-11-23213036.

Issues for Consultation

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Question 16: What framework should be adopted to encourage Indiaspecific OTT apps? Please comment with justifications.

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.

Question 18: Is there a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services? Please comment with justifications.

Question 19: What steps should be taken by the Government for regulation of non-communication OTT players? Please comment with justifications.

Question 20: Are there any other issues that have a bearing on the subject discussed?

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