NASSCOM recently made its submission to TRAI Consultation Paper on Traffic Management Practices (TMPs) and Multi-Stakeholder Body (MSB) for Net Neutrality. The scope of the consultation paper was largely on the monitoring and enforcement of the obligation, i.e. what are reasonable TMPs, what should be the approach to detecting violations, and what role should the proposed MSB play towards ensuring compliance with net neutrality-related obligations.
Traffic Management Practices
NASSCOM has consistently stood in favour of Net Neutrality and for reasonable TMPs. In our response we mentioned that as a general principle, any framework for assessing the reasonableness/proportionality of a TMP must be one that ensures that similar kinds of traffic are treated similarly by a TSP; and any form of TMP that is prescribed must be done in a technological neutral manner and it should provide flexibility to evolve with changing technologies.
We further stressed that any exemptions that may sought to be brought in for purposes of TMP should be very clearly set out and should only be for legitimate reasons, such as network/cyber security, emergency measures or legal restrictions – and through clear notifications issued by pre-defined public authorities (either the DoT, or the TRAI or any other authority designated for this purpose).
In line with international frameworks such as the UK Broadband Stakeholder Group’s Open Internet Code of Practice, TMP should never be permitted in situations where the ISP/Access Service provider stands to make any commercial gain.
Furthermore, Access Service Providers and ISPs should be mandated to provide information that clearly demonstrates to the public that TMP solutions being implemented by them are proportional. This can be done through disclosures made in tariff plans, which are easily understandable for consumers and through more detailed technical disclosures that can be made available on that Access Service Provider/ISP’s website.
Detection and Enforcement
We suggested that a multi-pronged approach could be adopted for the detection and enforcement of TMPs. This could involve setting up a dedicated consumer redressal portal for Net Neutrality related issued (for example if certain websites are not operating or are operating at a reduced speed). In addition, the TRAI can also conduct market surveys and audits of internet speeds and accessibility of various websites.
Multi-Stakeholder Body (MSB)
We mentioned that the proposed MSB, in its capacity to advise the DoT, must place non-discrimination of content as top priority. The MSB must balance factors of accessibility of services; consumer rights and expectations; and, must ensure awareness and benefit of net neutrality in society.
The MSB should be intended to further the concept of net neutrality and must also ensure that there is a diverse representation from various quarters.. In addition, participation can also be considered by network equipment and hardware manufacturers to ensure that upcoming technical standards can also be considered by MSB during their deliberations.
Given largely the advisory role of the MSB, the TRAI could set out a governing document or constitution for the MSB for governing its function. The MSB may then be set out to function on an issue-based or project-based approach for publishing research and advising regulators.
Functions, roles and responsibilities:
As an advisor to the DoT and to the TRAI on TMP matters, the MSB should advise on suitable technical standards and methodologies that may be adopted for the TMP in the Indian market and suggest improvements based on technology developments and best practices around the world.
Funding and operations:
The MSB, acting in advisory role to government regulators should primarily be supported financially by the DoT or the TRAI, ensuring that the burden on its members is kept at bare minimum. Ideally, and in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest, there could be a common minimum contribution from its members, that could supplement the funding provided by the DoT or the TRAI.
The NASSCOM’s full submissions have been attached.