Fri. Sep 29th, 2023
The Impact of Mandating Network Fees on the Internet in India

Mandating network fees in India would have a significant impact on the internet ecosystem, according to Barbara van Schewick, a professor of law at Stanford Law School. In her submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), she argued that such fees would set a dangerous precedent and could lead to a fragmentation of the internet globally.

Van Schewick emphasized the challenge of defining over the top (OTT) communication services, which encompass a wide range of applications and services. She pointed out that many popular apps, such as Gmail and League of Legends, offer communication features alongside their primary functions. Classifying these apps solely based on their communication features could discourage innovation and create regulatory burdens for non-traditional communication services.

The requirement for OTTs to meet quality of service (QoS) requirements was also questioned by Van Schewick. Unlike traditional voice services, OTTs do not own the underlying network infrastructure. Therefore, to guarantee good quality services, OTTs would have to enter into agreements with internet service providers (ISPs), which would violate net neutrality principles and create barriers to entry for small businesses and start-ups.

Van Schewick presented several arguments against network fees. She highlighted the significant investments made by OTTs in developing and operating internet content, apps, and services, which directly benefit ISPs. This leads to increased revenues for ISPs as customers upgrade to better internet plans to access new data-intensive content/services.

Furthermore, OTTs operate in a risky market, taking on the costs and risks associated with developing new content and applications, while ISPs benefit without assuming the same level of risk. Additionally, large OTTs bring data right to ISPs through their extensive data centers and content delivery networks, making the internet faster and reducing costs for Indian ISPs.

Finally, Van Schewick mentioned the challenges in accurately measuring traffic to impose network fees. Traffic measurement systems would need to go through a certification process to ensure accuracy, but encryption and privacy tools make it increasingly difficult to identify the source of traffic, leading to disputes that are hard to resolve.

In conclusion, Van Schewick’s submission to TRAI emphasizes the potential negative consequences of mandating network fees in India. It highlights the importance of preserving the open and innovative nature of the internet while acknowledging the investments and contributions made by OTTs to the internet ecosystem.