Lack of clear definitions leading to confusing internet regulations

The ruling by the Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI) on the “Free Basics” [2] by Facebook has created more confusion: “Can’t regulate intranet tariffs, says TRAI chief.”

There is lack of concrete definitions for “internet things.” For examples, ‘internet, ‘intranet,’ ‘net neutrality,’ even though the terms are in pervasive use. One of the reasons is internet is still evolving, and various interested parties are staking out their claims.

One way to reduce the confusion is to define regulations with reference to applicable point of connection or interconnection (public interfaces). Currently used ‘public interfaces’ are identified in the diagrams below:

Additional details are available at:

Internet being a “worldwide commons,” claims and counter claims about rights of usage, ownerships, liability and other legal issues are only going to intensity as more and more everyday use applications become available.

The report says, “There are concerns that telecom operators may bypass the TRAI order by providing content – such as movies, videos, health, education, shopping or other such services – at highly subsidized rates through such intranet networks.” This is not a real problem.

The real problem is withholding internet investments, and diverting them to “private networks” — degrading internet performance and making it sub-standard in the process. This is already the case in many parts of India during peak-demand periods (for example, during evenings in high-subscriber-density areas.) In these situations, internet systems are overloaded, making internet access unavailable or unusable.

Two necessary steps to reduce the confusion are:

  1. TRAI and other regulators should clearly define what “internet” is, and
  2. Minimum acceptable service levels for “internet” are various points of connection and interconnection.

If these definitional needs are addressed and minimum service levels are enforced, then the problem of “subsidizing” is a non-issue because the cost of make premium services through “private networks” will far exceed making them available using internet.

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