on 27th March, 2015 telecom regulatory authority of India came up with a document to collect suggestions and opinion from general public on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services. The OTTs are nothing but the apps that we use on daily basis.(link for the document)
The telecom operators i.e. the agents from whom we get out internet are looking to charge these apps as they are using the infrastructure but are not paying. Just like Google is making a lot of money via online advertisement but it is not paying anything to the internet provider who provided them the medium. (the analogy given by Telecom service providers is – In normal life a person may use a government constructed road and pay tax to the government so that they can build more such roads.) but Internet is not like that, since the user who access such OTTs or website, already pays to the internet service provider a subscription fees! yet the operators are turning every stone to make sure they find some way to find a new revenue stream from this mushrooming online apps. and that greedy approach is threatening something very precious related with the internet – the Net Neutrality.
What is net neutrality? (source)
Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet service providers should treat all traffic on their networks equally. That means companies like Comcast Corp or Bharti Airtel in Indian context should not block or slow down access to any website or content on the Web – for instance, to benefit their own services over those of competitors.
TRAI itself acknowledges this in its document.
“Net neutrality (NN) is generally construed to mean that TSPs must treat all internet traffic on an equal basis, no matter its type or origin of content or means used to transmit packets. All points in a network should be able to connect to all other points in the network and service providers should be able to deliver traffic from one point to another seamlessly, without any differentiation on speed, access or price. The principle simply means that all internet traffic should be treated equally.”
why its so important? net neutrality makes sure that internet remains a inclusive and equality based platform. people get to express themselves in most democratic manner. without this neutrality, the Internet service provider can reduce, or even prevent a user from accessing certain content (audio, video) on the internet. Further, it can also lead to breaking the Internet into many streams of Internet, i.e. diving the subscribers base so that few web sites, apps and content will be available at better speed to few people giving them an advantage. In short, with net neutrality gone, it will be a chaos on the web with monopoly and oligarchy of the internet services. The users have much to lose and so the new start ups, which are anyways threatened by giants like Google and facebook.
where it began?
the document says, The move to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology’s all-IP architecture will further facilitate this delinking of delivery of services from the underlying network. thus the ISP are losing control over the OTTs as in how they using the bandwidth. (isnt that a proof that the entire net architectures are structured with net neutrality as a corner stone!)
there is much to the debate. but my intention is this post is to present what govt. of India is saying in this regard. the Jargon they have introduced to deal with this issue and how it is important for general public to understand it. The terminologies are in order as they have appeared in the document.
|Telecom service providers (TSP)
(TSP also acts as an Internet
Service Provider (ISP) providing last mile connectivity and bandwidth)
|They are the operators offering fixed and mobile telephony. They are basically our wireless internet service providers.
BSNL, Bhartil Airtel, Tikona etc. they are all Telecom service providers in India.
|over-the-top (OTT)||OTT refers to applications and services which are accessible over the internet. The OTTs use operators’ networks infrastructure offering internet access services to reach to the end user.
This includes all popular apps like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Chat On, Snapchat, Instagram etc.
The document then catagorises these OTTs as 3 types,
1. Messaging and voice services (skype etc.)
2. Application eco-systems (twitter etc.)
3. Video audio content (youtube etc.)
|Value Added Service (VAS)||The traditional insanely costly ways to share media like
MMS. In short value added services are all other services offered by Telecom service providers (TSP) apart from call and SMS and user has to pay for it separately as its value addition to basic calling and SMS.
|Zero-rating service (like airtel one)||A silent killer for net neutrality.
zero-rating strategy is one where operators offer unlimited access to certain online services – typically social media sites,
music streaming or online television.
but For how long? No one is clear about it. With how many operators? and To how many OTTs? these questions are unanswered.
So if airtel and flipkart strikes a deal, then flipkart will pay to airtel and airtel will give priority to flipkart, resulting in better service and access to flipkart to airtel customers. (this is one scenario, there can be many such malpractices or cartel)
This will be detrimental to new startups and competition. It will lead to filtering of content as per convenience to the TSP and OTT! User will be manipulated.
|Fair Usage policy
|means reviewing the data usage of each subscriber and limiting the plan speed of specific customers who are using excessive network bandwidth.
So if you are using youtube more, then eventually your speed for internet will slow down as there will demand by other for bandwidth.
|Bandwidth caps/data caps require monitoring traffic volume and throttling data or charging for extra volume for a customer once a pre-defined data cap is reached.
Like BSNL home 800 plan offers first 6GB at 1Mbps speed after which speed reduces to 512Kbps.
|In Toll boothing
|different services offered to the users are priced differently.
Means if you are using youtube, there will be separate charge. differential pricing for VoIP calls and normal internet usage by Airtel in India is one such example of toll boothing. (this is a clear violation of net neutrality)
|accumulation of Universal Service
Obligation Fund (USOF)
Basically, BSNL is thus duty bound to provide service in rural India, it’s not doing any favor!
|to provide universal access to telecom services, i.e., focus on providing telecom services to rural and remote areas at affordable and reasonable prices.
And honestly, BSNL has wasted that fund.
besides today we have innovative solutions like facebooks internet.org microsoft white wifi and google lagoon fo internet access.
This fund should have been used better. Rather government should be open now considering advancement of technology.
|VoIP voice over internet protocol||VoIP is a protocol based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) that allows calls on Internet. Its basic framework for all internet telephony and used in skype and viber like OTTs. SIP and VoIP have their own security management procedure which does allow the government of TSP to intercept or tap communication.|
|Big Data analytics
|Big data is a broad term for data sets so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. Aim is to find out patterns in users behavior and choices. Thus it is used to extract information so It can be used for carrying out marketing activities.|
|The applications driving the internet. All browsers and now OTTs.|
|Content and Application Providers (CAPs)
Content and service providers (CASP)
|Same as ASPs but they are mostly new startups but in the document CAPs is used to generalize OTT and ASP.
As mentioned above, the CASP means all that is consuming the bandwidth of TSP. this term is used where large bandwidth use is referred to.
|Communications Service Providers (CSPs)
|All regulatory/ licensing requirements including lawful interception and
security of the network will be ensured if OTT players are classified as CSP.
These are the services that enable voice and video calling.
(don’t confuse with earlier ASP, here ASP is in context of CSP. The TRAI is looking to distinguish the OTTs based on use.)
|which either add value to the basic telecom services or can be provided as standalone application services through the telecom network. Apps like twitter and times of India app.|
a proposed data management technique –
|whereby different services are priced differently depending on agreements.|
another proposed data management technique.
|where they can provide preferential access to certain defined sites.
Eg. Airtel zero, facebooks internet.org
|Bulk User of Telecom Services (BuTS)||In this option the TSPs can treat an OTT as a bulk user of their telecom services based on amount of bandwidth it will use.
basically with BuTS the OTTs will pay the network provider to use its infrastructure and the user will also pay for the internet service. eventually the OTT may charge the user and user will end up paying both OTT and TSP!