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LIVE: TRAI’s Net Neutrality open house discussion in Mumbai

TRAI is holding a Net Neutrality open house discussion in Mumbai today at 2:30pm, and you can watch a live-stream here or on Periscope. We’ll be posting updates below.

Excerpts quoted below are not necessarily verbatim, but we will do our best to make sure that they are represented accurately.

Read our primer on the main issues of this net neutrality consultation here.

Live Updates

4:49: The discussion has ended. Asit Kadayan delivers a vote of thanks.

4:48: Telenor spokesperson takes mic for the thousandth time amid groans and laughter. “Since I am the last person talking there won’t be any rebuttal,” he brags.

4:47: Prachi from Koan Addvisory: “While I agree with Raman on enforceability, I think it should also be renewable in the face of new technologies that will be coming up — for example Internet of Things and so on. Keeping track of these changes as the ecosystem evolves is important.”

4:42: Jio: “Already telecom license provides for non-discrimination of content. The basic core of net neutrality is already built in, but authority can build on that. These days a lot of technological developments take place, and for that we need to adapt NN requirements as well. Committee can be constituted from TSPs, content providers, the whole ecosystem. There needs to be full representation of the Internet industry, with continuous expert consultations.

Raman Chima: “Outcome from TRAI in terms of enforcing should be a regulation, since it’s good for telcos as well who will know what they can and can’t do. People who actually build networks refer TRAI website and internal and external counsel to make sure they are abiding by guidelines.”

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4:40: Gauri Gokhale, Nishit Desai Associates: “People are leaning towards broad framework of regulations. We need a balance where broad framework is given and there is an industry or stakeholder self-regulation body which go into details of broad principles. Self-regulation can evolve with technology.”

4:38: Last set of questions:

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4:35: Prachi from Koan Advisory: “I’m glad that BIF want to be consumer-centric. But I don’t think that should stop TRAI from mandating necessary info to be provided to consumer in understandable format. Just because they choose not to access it shouldn’t mean that it isn’t provided to them. The example of UK customers not accessing it shouldn’t be used to say that customers shouldn’t have access to this info.

“There should be a combination — regulators as well as consumers need access to information.”

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4:33: TV Ramachandran again: “I endorse [Jio] — it is also important that this information is easily understandable by the consumer. We need to go into this in more detail because of different types and extent of internet connectivity in India. Customer should be at the center and can’t be forced — we must tailor the market based on what they want.”

4:31: Jio on transparency disclosures:

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4:28: New set of questions:

4:23: Gagandeep Bajaj, Idea speaks (though Vodafone has already spoken. So I guess this is redundant — TRAI should figure out which one’s submissions they consider.)

Raman Chima, Access Now: I object to operators saying there’s no technical stack to check compliance of NN. There are stacks like OONI. M-LAB, which submitted a comment to TRAI, also has tools. … Whatever stack you use, TRAI should allow people to use data to raise complaints using these stacks and network probes. Over last three years, start-ups have complained about throttling, and they don’t know who to approach. If you complain about NN, there needs to be persons designated who can be approached.

4:18:  Red Mango Analytics: “There are challenges that could be faced in performing tests for NN. Example: I’m a large social network providing free WiFi, and I have my own social network on the intranet of the WiFi. But let’s say overall Internet is limited in comparison. Obviously the intranet will be faster. In context of that, whether content belonging to ISPs should be treated as enterprise content or not. If I’m an ISP and I have content on my server, even if I don’t discriminate, users will have faster access to content on my servers than general Internet. So last mile NN is not easy to control.

“What regulator could do is: any ISP providing content should ensure that it should have enough points of interconnection with similar content on other websites.”

TRAI says this doesn’t answer their question.

“Even if you impose NN regulations, ISPs can get around it by saying content to my servers is more easily available.”

Jio: “Only thing we can do here is a collaborative approach between authority and operators after taking inputs from customers.”

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4:15: Next group of questions: Tools for measurement, reporting and monitoring compliance of net neutrality. Questions 7 & 11:

4:13:  TV Ramachandran: “In context of discrimination and differentiation, authority should remember that equal treatment is not in many cases equitable. If you treat unequals as equals, that will be problematic. In traffic, if you say everything should have equal traffic, like video and email and medical emergency — we need to differentiate between types of traffic and avoid discrimination within a category.”

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4:08: Mahesh Uppal: If users want a certain differential product from ISP, then for TRAI to not allow the ISP to do it is problematic. He gives examples of explicit-content filtered version of Internet for parents and text-only version of Internet. Quoting Plato, he says TRAI should have discretion and a certain amount of leeway should exist for operators, subject to overall regulatory supervision.

4:05: Amit from IAMAI: “We realize importance of TMPs, reasonable TMPs. These should be temporary, and similar categories of data should be treated similarly. No commercial interests on TMP should exist. As far as user-triggered preferential treatment is concerned, that’s tricky since it could violate principles of discriminatory pricing prohibition.”

Reena from Aircel: Operators should have freedom to do non-discriminatory tie-ups with content providers.

4:01: Tata Communications: “Most issues on NN are from network layer perspective, content-neutral network management practices, with due respect to practice.” He reads out NN definition and principles.

“For ‘illegal’ content, each time movies are released, we get block orders for hundreds of URLs. We will be happy if all this blocking is done by content providers so we don’t have to do deep packet inspection. This slows down our networks and impacts everyone.

“Traffic management should be content-neutral.”

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3:54: Raman Chima, Access Now: “Lawful interception is already an exception.”

He asks why ISPs should use deep packet inspection without lawful interception requirement. Also says authority should clarify what ‘lawful content’ is.

3:51: Amit Mathur from RCOM: “The three principles of no prioritization, blocking, throttling, these principles should be followed, but the fourth one, “no intervention or looking at content”. We can’t go ahead because there are lawful interception and other things where we do packet inspection, even for QoS. We need to be very careful with that.

TRAI asks for examples.

“For video content being used for let’s say, a surger, that’s a different requirement than a gaming application. We need packet inspection to understand the difference there.”

TRAI asks if RCOM does packet inspection.

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“Normally, no, but we need to be careful about setting this as a principle.

He suggests balance of broad and narrow approach.

3:48: Anjali Hans, Vodafone: Customer needs to be at center of NN. He needs to be able to make choices in terms of data packs. He needs information to make informed choices. It should be permitted as long as classification is not arbitrary. DOT committee laid down guidelines that were balanced. On traffic management, I’ll pass it to–

Ajay from Vodafone: “From an operator’s standpoint, customer is at forefront. Operators work tirelessly for this. With increased traffic, we don’t recommend — this is an area growing rapidly. Innovation needs to be encouraged so only broad framework should be there that allows innovation and customer experience improve.”

3:43: RS Sharma tells TV Ramachandran to be brief.

TV: “All these questions are in context of NN in India — there is no need to copy regulations of others. We need to customize NN for India, especially in country where not many have broadband. When we talk about differentiation and discrimination, we support the need for a fair level of differentiation for customers and operators to be allowed for them.

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“If I offer free services to everyone on the same condition, it is non-discriminatory and shouldn’t be stopped. Even if we do permit that sort of thing, you’d end up with the poor subsidizing the rich, like Tughlaq. Overall Internet will degrade. When it comes to traffic management, we talk about ‘reasonable’ traffic management. That’s a good policy but a subjective term. Common consumers don’t understand this — in UK, telcos adopted something like this and consumers were disinterested. We submit it should be a mixture of broad and narrow — certain things like throttling should be taboo, but rest should be left to broad guidelines.”

He goes on to say that Free Data and other consultations need to be ‘subsumed’ by this consultation.

3:35: Siddharth from Hotstar: “Application based discrimination should not be allowed. With respect to video-based discrimination — video accounted for 70% of global traffic in 2016. Soon it will be 82%. Allowing cross-category discrimination would lead to a lot of throttling. … User-based discrimination: since NN focuses a lot on last-mile access and is meant for consumer benefit, we believe it would not be a violation of NN if user is allowed to exercise choice on what content they would like to have preferential access to. As long as the user is exercising choice in an informed way, and ISPs should monitor this.”

Read: On these Delhi ISPs, YouTube and Hotstar are twice as fast as the rest of the Internet

3:31: Utkarsh, IAMAI: “As for discrimination within and across categories — you will introduce turbulence if you discrimination across categories. New entrants might find it difficult if you wall-garden categories when regulating net neutrality. That regulatory burden is also going to be difficult — you may even need to set up a tribunal for it. This would be difficult to iron out. The only exception should be things like restrictions on unlawful content and emergencies. That can be ensured at network level as opposed to content level, eg. pacemakers and IoT. There’s a very strong possibility of certain negative reactions. One has to be careful proceeding to avoid censorship etc. Neutrality of the network should be maintained and content should not be in this purview.”

3:28: TRAI moves on to questions on how Net Neutrality should be approached in Indian context and what approach (broad or narrow) should be taken to regulate it. How should reasonable or unreasonable practices be defined for the purpose of these regulations? Should discrimination in the same category be viewed more strictly than discrimination across categories?

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3:19: Vikram, COAI: “In the beginning we started off by saying that there was background to the paper — that backgound is still open. The DOT and the OTT paper — the OTT recommendations are still not out, which the authority should take into account. All these get tied up, and this is the first paper with “net neutrality” in the title by TRAI. The other thing is that we will probably have some discussions about how this will enhance or promote innovations. In these two questions [2 & 14] the definition of Internet services — while license would say what is a telecom service, in this case Internet service, we recommend “a publicly available Internet service that provides access to all or virtually all endpoints of Internet regardless of equipment etc”.

“Enterprise arrangements should be left to mutual commercial arrangements.”

3:10: Koan Advisory: Specialized services should be defined narrowly, and no service that is offered there should be available on the general Internet. … CDNs don’t need to be regulated as that can be left to market forces.

Talking about devices is meaningless because NN is about the network itself.

3:09: Anjali Hans, Vodafone: “On definition of Internet traffic, it should only cover mass market Internet broadband service. Specialized and specific enterprise services should be excluded. When we talk about CDNs and browsers and so on, while regulation cannot be applied on them, there is no question that quality of experience is impacted by these things. Therefore if you only apply it to one point of the Internet ecosystem how will you find out who is faulting and who is complying?”

3:07: Mahipal Singh, Jio: “What I feel is that since common IP data network is being set up by service provider on which Internet as well as other LTE data, voice and other services are being provided, a distinction needs to be made so that proper QoS is given based on sensitivity of requirement. … For ISPs, content has to be distinguished and whenever content is being viewed by subscribers, ISPs or TSPs should only charge once to the customer. There should not be a reason to charge separately for content as TSP is not providing content separately.”

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3:00:  Mahesh Uppal: “There should be no ambiguity that net neutrality only has relevance in physical networks. As far as applicability to other players is concerned, there’s not much there. As for specialized and enteprise networks are concerned, they do pose a concern. If NN doesn’t become a bugbear and becomes too imposing, then it becomes a matter of concern. I should be able to choose quality as long as the same class of customers is not being discriminated against. While browsers and devices fall outside this, we need NN for equitable access. … We can’t have cut-and-paste regulations here. We need to consider the needs of specialized services, as we as a population are unique. It’s important to recognize that all breaches of ‘orthodox’ net neutrality are not the same. Just because some breaches are anti-consumer doesn’t mean all are. I think given the circumstances in the telecom sector, we would be naive if we reduced or tried to do away with incentives to expand this network. We have gone through overnight changes where the number of players has dramatically reduced. If we try to straitjacket net neutrality regulations we may pay a cost that’s not worth paying.”

Manjunath, IIT Bombay: “It was said that interconnection market is competitive and there is no need for regulation there. I don’t understand exactly what that means. Whenever people mention that enterprise should be exempt, I need a more proper definition of ‘enterprise’. If an ISP has a closed-loop network where it distributes its own content, is that enterprise? I would rather not have those services be called enterprise.”

TV Ramachandran, Broadband India Forum on enterprise services: “Enterprise services are what we refer to as specialized services typically offered to large organized through customized and individually negotiated agreements. Anything that falls within that is enterprise.”

Pankaj Sharma, Telenor: “As we’re looking at Q2, ‘internet traffic’ and ‘providers of internet services’, there are two aspects here. One is from consumer side: there it should be completely open with unhindered access. Second part is providers. Providers should also be able to innovate. It’s easy to regulate them, but there’s also costs to regulate them that exist. How are we going to monitor? Is it going to be self-regulation or are we going to actively monitor? When you use ‘internet traffic’ and ‘providers of internet services’, those need to be balanced. If this a service which I’m giving to enterprise on agreed QoS, and if I serve consumers on the other hand… any enterprise specialized services, I’m charging completely different sums to enterprise. So on special QOS and rates, NN should not apply.

“Interconnection and CDNs are still developing. In coming years there will be time when CDNs have direct interconnection with ISPs, but today it needs to be out of NN.”

2:51: TV Ramachandran, Broadband India Forum: “The very term ‘Net Neutrality’ is like honesty or truthfulness. Everyone is for it but all have their own interpretation of it. We need a handle on what to define it as. Our view is that net neutrality should not apply to things like devices, browsers, etc. It should only apply to networks, not CDNs or browsers. We think all those are secondary to primary access, which is what we’re bothered about. That is our first submission.

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… “Fact is that making a distinction between OTT apps and OTT communications apps is useless. OTT is different from licensed entities.”

2:44: Sunil Bajpai, Advisor: “Questions will be taken in five groups: i) who does NN apply to?, ii) approach and scope, iii) tools for measurement, iv) disclosures and other requirements, v) next generation technology.”

2:40: TRAI chairman RS Sharma: “This is an area that has been under consideration for the last two years. In the middle of 2015, TRAI brought out an OTT paper that is still not concluded. Then we had discriminatory tariff prohibition and then free data. This is so vibrant that we thought we should not miss out on details, so we issued a pre-consultation. Now this consultation paper has been issued, we have a very rich global repository of comments. We started this OHD because of the importance of the issue not only from the perspective of stakeholders but also from a perspective of our country.

“We will probably have more open house discussions, maybe in Bangalore and Delhi.”

2:37: TRAI: “This is not the first time we’re looking at Net Neutrality in this country — we have had a pre-consultation and also other consultations such as Free Data. This consultation is very focused on the key issues that have emerged in the current consultation. A broad consensus already probably exists on NN, but the details of the consensus need sharpening. Devil — or God — is in the details, which we will be trying to find this afternoon.”


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Written By

I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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