Standing up for Net neutrality and start-up eco-system | NASSCOM
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Standing up for Net neutrality and start-up eco-system

No rights/discretion be given to TSPs to effectively censor/block legal content, to throttle lawful Internet traffic or determine how users use the Internet in the form of "normal Net management or commercial practices"
A level playing field is provided to Internet platforms and services, especially entrepreneurial start-ups
There is a prioritization of emergency or any other services based on a public declaration and without price discrimination
There be a clear and declared definition of acceptable technical practices by TSPs for the management of network traffic in conformity with above principles
There is no double dipping by Telecom Service Providers (charging for data from both consumer and application/ platform provider)
There are security restrictions only to ensure that the services are lawful and reliable. They need to be based on national security or sound network management requirements and uniform technical enforceability
 

Following these suggestions will ensure that small players, who are big on ideas but may not have the resources to enter into large deals with TSPs, flourish. Else, innovation will be stifled.

According to NASSCOM, it is a fallacy to presume that application service providers (OTT services) are a non-regulated segment. The Code of Criminal Procedure, Indian Telegraph Act, Indian Telegraph Rules, and the Information Technology Act and its different rules pertaining to intermediaries and interception are applicable to Internet Platforms and Services.

These different regulations allow the Indian government and law enforcement agencies to access the data stored by Internet platforms through laid down legal processes when deemed necessary.

At this juncture, therefore, NASSCOM believes that regulations, in the any form of licensing will simply build a 'digital iron curtain' and a famine in terms of app access.

The Internet needs to remain an open, free and non-discriminatory platform. Clearly, the argument is in favor of Net neutrality. At the same time, data consumption needs to be linked to revenues for TSPs, and application service providers must be allowed to grow in an unfettered fashion.

“Net neutrality is of critical importance to ensure an open and level playing field and provide unrestricted access to legal content and services free of any procedural or regulatory compliance requirements. NASSCOM has advocated a definition of Net neutrality and related technical and commercial practices to achieve these objectives". R. Chandrashekhar, President, NASSCOM

 

The advent of the Internet, proliferation of mobile telephony, adoption of new technology, coupled with the burgeoning growth of an innovation-driven, start-up eco-system and the Digital India vision, have created the perfect environment for rampant economic development and transformation of India through the use of technology.

A large part of the success of India's product start-ups in particular, rests on their unrestricted access to Internet and Internet platforms and services.

This trend, however, seems, on the face of it, to be at variance with the needs of the telecom industry and its strategies for survival. Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) not only need to scale infrastructure to keep up with forever expanding Internet traffic to meet the needs of new age users, they also need to step up revenues to offset these infrastructure investments.

Revenue models of TSPs today largely cater to a voice-dominated scenario, and are relatively low in terms of data intensity. Web 2.0 and its advent has seen an upsurge of content which is very heavily data driven and continues to expand at an exponential rate.

The new breed of application providers, the emerging product and services eco-system, is leveraging the Internet and the infrastructure of TSPs to deliver these data-centric services.

This tussle between applications providers and TSPs has led India's telecom regulator, TRAI, to deliberate on a Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) services. Simply explained, OTT services are audio, video and other media offerings that are delivered by third parties over the Internet, without involving a multiple system operator. According to Wikipedia, "besides the content of the Internet protocol packets, TSPs are not responsible for, nor able to control the viewing abilities, copyrights and/or other redistribution of content".

While it is true that OTT services do cut into the revenues of the TSPs, the fact is they spur data consumption, leading to a sustained rise in the revenues of these telecom companies.

What is really needed is a synergy between the two segments, where eventually revenue streams will be calibrated to the consumption of data. The OTT model of service delivery can be reconciled with the business model of the TSP.

For this to happen, there needs to be an understanding of the guiding principles of Net neutrality, an issue which is receiving a lot of attention in the media today. Net neutrality implies that users have unfettered, inviolable rights to choose the legal content they want to view over the Internet.

NASSCOM's view

NASSCOM believes that users have a right to choose and that this right is seriously compromised when regulations fail to proscribe price and non-price based discrimination, which imposes an unnecessary and unacceptable demand on data curtailment.

Keeping in mind the different arguments being put forth, NASSCOM has proposed to TRAI a synergistic model for Internet platforms, applications and TSPs. It has strongly advocated Net neutrality and recommended that:

The universal principles of Net neutrality, access for all and leveraging Internet for development growth should be upheld
Given the variety of definitions worldwide, it is important to recognize that unfettered user rights of making an informed choice in deciding access to contents is the bedrock of Net neutrality
There should be no roadblocks to the rapid adoption of ICT enabled models and innovations that are expected to drive the Digital revolution in the country