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Friday , 2 December 2016
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BIF PRESS RELEASE ON NET NEUTRALITY

1. Broadband India Forum’s submission is a balanced view on the complex and evolving subject of Net Neutrality as it incorporates the views of both the Application/Content Providers on one side and also the views of the Internet Service Providers on the other.

2. Broadband India Forum has amongst its fold, many stakeholders with a wide and diverse background. These include start-ups exclusively focussed on providing rural broadband viz. Blue Town & Airjaldi, International Long Distance Service Providers viz. AT & T, Content Providers viz. Facebook as well as TSP/ISPs  viz. Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, Telenor, etc .

3. Broadband India Forum has taken the initiative to  define Net Neutrality in the Indian Context. and has gone ahead to enunciate the 10 key characteristics  of Net Neutrality viz. No Blocking, No Throttling, Open Internet, No improper  prioritization ( paid or otherwise), Open, easy & non-discriminatory access, recognition of at least 4 categories  of traffic  and different traffic management techniques for different categories but having the same within each category, Equitable regulatory treatment of similar or near-similar services, permission of zero rating systems, etc

3. Broadband India Forum recognises that there are at least 4 different categories of traffic which place significantly different demands on the limited network resources, viz., email, browsing and the like (Category 1), YouTube, video streaming, movie downloads and the  like (Category 2), Specialised Services like remote medical diagnosis, disaster management, emergency services etc (Category 3) and  Voice over IP/Internet Telephony and the like ( Category 4 ).  It is understood that different traffic management techniques/tools  would need to be employed to ensure  high quality end user experience .  However, it is to be ensured that there is no discrimination within a category Equal is clearly not equitable in this situation. All such treatments should however be transparent, proportional and non-discriminatory in nature and must be effectively and understandably disclosed to consumers.

4. India’s concept of Net Neutrality would include permission for Zero-Rating systems on an ex-ante regulatory examination basis.

5. BIF supports the recommendations of the High Powered DOT Committee on Net Neutrality  which are as given below:

1. Core Principles of Net Neutrality maybe made a part of the License Conditions ( UL ) with mutual agreement & the licensor may issue guidelines from time to time as learning matures

2. Since Net Neutrality related cases require specialised expertise, a special cell in DOT HQ maybe set up to deal with such cases. In case of violation, the existing prescribed procedure of two stage process of review and appeal to ensure decisions are objective, transparent & fair. At the same time, no ex ante regulation is to be undertaken, DoT may address complaints on a case-to-case basis in accordance with the overarching objectives of consumer welfare, and maintenance of free and fair competition.

3. Tariff regulation maybe done by following the existing principles of forbearance. Whenever any tariff violation is reported , post implementation or a complaint to that effect is received, the Authority maybe asked to step in through post-ante regulation.

4. Net Neutrality issues arising out of traffic management would have reporting & auditing requirements which maybe dealt with by  TRAI . 

5. Quality of service issues fall within the jurisdiction of TRAI. Reporting related to transparency, non-discriminatory and fair practices maybe dealt with by TRAI. 

6.. It is important to also mention that one of the emerging areas of internet usage which is driving innovation and investment in the market place is IOT/M2M. ( Internet-of-things/Machine-to-Machine ) BIF advocates that both Enterprise and specialised services viz. IOT/M2M should be kept outside the ambit of Open Internet regulation.

7. It is important for the Authority to not pick winners or losers ex-ante but permit fair and equitable market conditions for all players/stakeholders  to operate with similar /near-similar services  given equitable treatment and be dealt with appropriate set of rules.

8. BIF advocates   a need to balance both public interest as well as public policy objectives and create an environment that ensures the growth and sustainability of both the ISP/TSPs as well as the OTT services.

9. Existence of pricing arbitrage in case of OTT communication services requires a graduated and calibrated public policy response. which can be appropriately determined after the process of public consultation & the Recommendations by the Authority .

However, for OTT Applications which are essential for the growth of the Internet economy, and for higher offtake of data services , there is however, no case for prescribing regulatory oversight and/or ex-ante regulation.

10. In conclusion we wish to state 

  1. At our stage of development, our highest need is internet adoption and increased data usage and whatever facilitates that needs to be heartily supported.
  2. There should be level playing field between the ISP/TSPs  & the OTT Communication players. OTT Communication players need to be brought under the same regulatory regime as the ISP/TSPs.
  1. Free Data should be permitted and it should be left  to the service providers( ISP/TSPs) to decide whether they want to enter into such arrangement with the content providers or not basis their business case & requirement of technical development.
  2. No ex-ante regulation is required since there is enough competition and the  market is vibrant enough.  In case of any violations, on ex-post basis, TRAI can examine tariff plans on a case by case basis after giving a reasonable opportunity to the operators of being heard.
  3. We also submit that the question of modernization of communications regulation, net neutrality and differential pricing should be reviewed holistically and periodically to ensure that the same services are treated in a technologically neutral way and that consumers are protected and the objectives of Digital India are achieved.

About Broadband India Forum 

A not-for-profit body, Broadband India Forum (BIF) is an offshoot of the IPTV Society. BIF’s vision is to be a thought leader as well as a credible and effective voice of the Indian broadband industry to help propel the nation in achieving the ambitious vision of our Hon’ble PM by transforming our country through Digital India. To achieve this, BIF is working to facilitate expeditious advancement of affordable and high-speed broadband throughout the country on a technology-neutral basis via development of the entire broadband ecosystem on a holistic and inclusive basis. The Forum comprises several members from various segments, viz., technology providers, telecom operators, Internet service providers, Cable TV operators, satellite operators, value-added service providers and seasoned industry professionals familiar with different technologies, operations, regulations and policies, including business models and business cases.

BIF’s senior leadership team comprises some renowned and respected professionals from both industry and the Government. Mr M F Farooqui, IAS (Retd), past Secretary – Telecom, Govt. of India is the current Chairman and Mr Shyamal Ghosh, former Secretary – Telecom & IT and first Administrator of the USO Fund is Chairman Emeritus of BIF.  Mr T V Ramachandran, Chairman, European Business Group India – Telecom and Founder & CEO TVR@Advisory is the President of the Association.  Other distinguished office bearers who actively participate in BIF include  Mr Vimal Wakhlu – CMD, TCIL, Mr Ravi Gandhi – Chief Regulatory Officer, Bharti Airtel, Mr T R Dua – DG, TAIPA, who are Vice Presidents. Mr Manoj Misra, Head Regulatory – Vodafone India Ltd and former Senior TRAI Official is the Treasurer.  Besides, Mr P K Garg, former Wireless Adviser, is associated as Adviser to some of the Expert Committees of BIF.

 

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