TRAI-ing Times: The Story So Far

Posted by Tarun Krishnakumar at Mar 19, 2015 01:40 AM |
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24th December, 2014 marked a pivotal moment in the Indian experience with network neutrality. On this date, one of India’s largest telecom players, Bharti Airtel, announced the introduction of a new ‘VoIP’ usage policy for its mobile users.



Under this policy, usage of VoIP services would henceforth be excluded from standard data usage packs and would instead be charged at standard data rates (of 4p / 10KB on 3G and 10p / 10KB on 2G).[1] Alongside this modification to 2G and 3G packs, a separate data pack exclusively for VoIP services was to be introduced. [2]

The flurry of activity the announcement precipitated included widespread consumer and civil society outrage[3], a statement by the Union Minister for Telecom[4], a justificatory counter-statement by Airtel itself[5] and ultimately, a statement by TRAI. [6] While it remains to be seen whether this was a calculated move by Airtel to kick-start the neutrality discussion in India (as some suspect[7]), the implementation of the new policy/pack was deferred pending TRAI's proposed consultation paper on OTT services. [8]

In the context of the impending (though seemingly delayed[9]) release this paper, we take this opportunity to study TRAI-linked output on network neutrality in the past. This study was carried out using RTI requests [Part I] and targeted keyword searches of the TRAI website [Part II].

Information received through RTI requests

We had filed the following request under the Right to Information Act, 2005 on the subject and net neutrality and any material available with them generated in the course of internal or other discussions:

Request for Information under the Right to Information Act, 2005


Shri V.K.Saxena

Dy. Advisor (GA.) & Central Public Information Officer-LO

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Mahanagar Doorsanchar Bhawan,

Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, Old Minto Road,

New Delhi-110 002

Date of application : 08-10-2014

Subject: Documents relating to Network Neutrality

1. Please provide a list of all the consultations/discussions/meetings that have taken place with respect to network neutrality by TRAI.

2. Please provide a list of all responses received by TRAI which concern network neutrality.

3. Please provide a list of other documents/memos/minutes regarding network neutrality available with TRAI.

4. Does TRAI possess power to punish ISPs for violating principles of network neutrality? If so, please mention the provision of law which permits this.

5. What measures are taken by TRAI to monitor network neutrality violations by ISPs? For example, throttling of internet content/protocols.

6. What is the procedure for a consumer to file a complaint with TRAI regarding network neutrality violations?

7. Please provide copies of any documents regarding complaints received / action taken with respect to network neutrality violations in the past three years.

It is certified that I am a citizen of India and that I do not fall within the BPL category. I am enclosing Rupees thirty (Rs. 10) towards the application fee and photocopying costs under the RTI Act for the information and documents requested. Kindly inform me at the address stated below if any further fees are required to be paid.

Applicant : Signature of the Applicant

Tarun Krishnakumar

Centre for Internet and Society

194, 2nd C Cross Road, Domlur II Stage,

Bangalore - 560071


In response to the same, we received the following reply which smacked of non-application of mind by the concerned officer to the request:


Shri Tarun Krishnakumar

Centre for Internet and Society

194, 2nd C Cross Road, Domlur II Stage

Bangalore (Karnataka) - 560071.



  1. Please refer to your application dated 08.10.2014 , seeking information under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 regarding Network Neutrality related matter.
  1. It is informed that the information sought by you vide the above referred application is not available in TRAI.
  1. The Appellate Authority in TRAl under section 19 (1) of the "Right to Information Act, 2005" is Shri Suresh Kumar Gupta, Pr. Advisor (CA&QOS), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Mahanagar Doorsanchar Bhawan, Jawaharlai Nehru Marg, Old Minto Road, New Delhi-110 002, Tele:011- 23216930, Fax : 011- 23235270.

Yours faithfully,

(V.K. Saxena)

Central Public Information Officer (LO)

Tele: 011-23211622



In reply, we filed the following appeal with the designated Appellate Authority:

Appeal under the Right to Information Act, 2005

To :

Appellate Authority

Shri. Suresh Kumar Gupta,

Pr. Advisor (CA and QoS),

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India,

Mahanagar Doorsanchar Bhawan,

Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, Old Minto Road,

New Delhi - 110002

Date: 23.11.2014

Subject: Appeal under Section 19(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 with reference to your reply No. 1(658)/2014-RTI dated 10.11.2014

Dear Sir,

I write to you with reference to my RTI Application dated 08.10.2014 for information relating to 'network neutrality' held by TRAI. The CPIO, Shri. V.K. Saxena, rejected my request vide letter no. 1(658)/2014-RTI dated 10.11.2014 stating that " the information sought by you vide the above referred application is not available in TRAI." (enclosed herewith). As the applicant, I am unsatisfied and aggrieved by the above decision and hereby appeal against the same.

Circumstances and Grounds of Appeal :

By way of my application (enclosed herewith), I sought any and all information held by TRAI in relation to 'network neutrality'. For example, questions 1 - 3 queried the list of consultations etc. that have taken place involving network neutrality and sought copies of all documentation pertaining to the same. The other questions sought information pertaining to the powers of TRAI in relation to internet service providers and complaints received by it in relation to network neutrality. I submit that the failure of the CPIO to provide any answer to my queries is erroneous and therefore liable to be set aside on appeal to you.

It is well-documented that there is at least one consultation connected with the subject-matter of my application i.e. 'network neutrality' released by TRAI in December 2006 (Paper No. 19/2006). In fact, the paper is currently available on the TRAI website at the following URL:

(Please see heading 3.6 and 3.7). Therefore, if nothing else at least all information pertaining to this paper including the responses received to the question under Heading 3.7 must be supplied to me.

You may also take note of TRAI's "Recommendations on Application Services" (available at URL: ) dated 14.05.2014 where paras 1.29 - 1.31 pertain to net neutrality. This is another document that the CPIO failed to take notice of.

The failure of the CPIO to even acknowledge the existence of TRAI's own papers as cited above shows that there has been no application of mind to my application and a mechanical denial has been issued.

Prayer :

In light of the grounds advanced above, I request that:

i. My application for all information pertaining to 'network neutrality' be allowed and the relevant documents be released to me.

ii. I receive a question-by-question response to each of my queries.

List of Enclosures: 1. Original Application dated 08.10.2014

2. Reply of CPIO No. 1(658)/2014-RTI dated 10-11-2014

Name of Appellant/Applicant and Address :

Tarun Krishnakumar

Centre for Internet and Society

194, 2nd C Cross Road, Domlur II Stage,

Bangalore - 560071



The appellate authority vide dated decision 12-01-2015 replied as follows:


F. No. 1(658)/2014-RTI

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Mahanagar Door Sanchar Bhawan, Jawaharlal Nehru Marg

(Old Minto Road), New Delhi-110002.

APPEAL in terms of Section 19(1) of RTI Act, 2005

Date of Decision: 12th January, 2015

In the Matter of:




  1. Shri Tarun Krishnakumar has preferred the present appeal dated 23.11.2014 against the reply of CPIO, TRAI, communicated to him vide letter No. 1(658)/2014-RTI dated 10.11.2014 in response to his application dated 08.10.2014 under the RTI Act.
  2. I have gone through the appellant's application dated 08.10.2014 addressed to the Central Public Information Officer, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the reply dated 10.11.2014 given to the appellant by the CPIO and the present appeal. The appellant had requested for information regarding Network Neutrality and related matter. Since the said information was not available with the Public Authority, TRAI, the CPIO. TRAI informed this to the appellant. The appellant, however, not being satisfied with the reply has filed this appeal.
  3. Upon examination, it was noticed that the consultation paper on "Review of Internet Services" issued on 27'" December, 2006 has a reference to Net Neutrality in Chapter 3-Emerging Trends. Therefore, the concerned division has uploaded the comments received in response to the 2006 consultation paper for the information of stake holders, the same is available in TRAI website under the link . Further, the "Recommendations on Application Services" was issued on 14.05.2012 and is available on TRAI website. There is no additional information which can be provided to the appellant at this stage.
  4. In view of the above, the appeal is accordingly disposed.
  5. Let a copy of this order be sent to the appellant.


(Suresh Kumar Gupta)

Appellate Authority, TRAI

Under RTI Act, 2005

This reveals the extent of TRAI-produced output on the issue of 'net neutrality'. Besides a reference to Neutrality in 2006 paper TRAI did not disclose any other instance where it had discussed the issue.



Targeted Keyword Searches of the website

This leg of the survey consisted of conducting targeted keyword searches of the website to gauge the engagement with the subject of Network Neutrality either in the form of TRAI Output, Submissions to TRAI or other outputs (from seminar, conferences etc.). The results - aggregated using Google and Bing - have been tabulated.

Note: The results do not include the OTT Consultation Paper of 27-03-2015.

Methodology : Keyword searches of specific website using the advanced search / site-search search operator ("KEYWORD + site:<URL>"); Repeated Hits were not tabulated.

i. Keyword: "Net Neutrality"

Total No. of search results returned = 10 (Google), 6 (Bing)

Relevant Hits: 8


Name of Document


Relevant Page



Consultation Paper on "Review of Internet Services" (No. 19/2006)


References at Pg. 27-28.

Views were sought in relation to emerging trends one of which outlined was 'Net Neutrality.'

Selected Extracts:

" 3.6.2 The situation may also rise in India as Internet access providers may use their market power to discriminate against competing applications and/or contents. "

" 3.6.3 The issue of net neutrality in the long term can threaten popularity of Public Internet based Internet telephony and similar 28 other applications as all the intermediate Internet providers may start asking commercial agreements in absence of which they may refuse to carry the content and provide desired quality of service. The future developments are likely to have new applications and contents. The business models of ISPs are concentrated around useful application. In this background views of stake holders are required whether regulatory intervention is needed to ensure net neutrality in India in times to come or it may be left to market forces. "


Vodafone's counter-response to TRAI's Consultation paper on 'Delivering Broadband Quickly'


References at Pg. 3-4.

Here, Vodafone pledges support for an 'open internet' for all however comments " net neutrality has long been a solution in search of a problem" and criticises EU framework.


Response of Etisalat DB to Pre-consultation paper on "IMT-Advanced (4G) Mobile wireless broadband services"


References at Pg. 2 (Paragraph 12).

Etisalat notes that net neutrality is a topic that requires deliberation in reference to the proposed consultation paper on 4G.

It defines neutrality as "Avoiding blockage of any specific web site on a particular network".


TRAI Recommendations on "Issues relating to Internet Telephony"


References at Pg. 46 and 78

At Pg. 46: " The very popularity and success of the Internet is due to Net neutrality, i.e packets of all services and applications shall be processed and delivered without any discrimination by the intermediate service providers."

At Pg. 78: " Regulation in Argentina considers IP as a mere way to offer telecommunication services, such as telephony in the form of VoIP, thus there are no legal barriers that impede market access or any plans to regulate different types of the service. Any provider is free to offer telecommunication services with different technologies and network architectures, based on the network neutrality principle…"…" The foreign investment policy is liberal and there are no distinctions between local and foreign companies. According to the network neutrality principle, there are no regulated technological standards or protocols for VoIP "


Response to the Consultation Paper (No: 13/2014) on "Interconnect Usage Charges" filed by (i) Dr. Rohit Prasad, Professor, Management Development Institute, Gurgaon

(ii) Mansi Kedia, Researcher, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)

(iii) Dr. V. Sridhar, Professor, International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore

Reference at Pg.7

Raises the question of Net Neutrality with reference to OTT services.

At Pg. 7: "… Since an Internet Telephony call is a partial OTT service (i.e. from the origin until it hits the IP-Telco gateway), should Net Neutrality principles (as and when drafted) should be applicable for this as well. The above question, can be taken up when the Net Neutrality rules or OTT regulation rules are framed by the regulator. "


Response of Infotel Broadband Services Ltd to Consultation Paper on "Mobile Value Added Services" (CP 05/ 2011)


Reference at Pg. 3

Opposition to Licensing regime for Internet Content and Application Providers:

At Pg. 3: " 3. Internet/ Data Applications do not depend on Telecom Operator, and are not licenced in open mature countries The need to exercise restraint on regulation is stronger in the case of data/ internet services. In the case of VAS on data/ internet services, VASPs have no technical dependence on Telecom/ Internet Service Provider for providing the service, as the data connection is generally a dumb pipe. For some services, VASPs choose to partner Telecom Operators for billing convenience (as in the case with currently provided Games-on-Demand service and Anti-virus services over Broadband). Globally, Internet Application Companies and Regulators mostly operate on a net neutrality approach, wherein a broadband application is accessible across Telecom/ Internet Service Providers. Thus, especially in the case of data services, there is no case to govern a relationship/ arrangement that has no technical necessity. Licencing Regime for Internet Content and Application providers, like portals, e-commerce, etc is not in practice in any of the open countries and should not be introduced in India too."


Response to Vodafone to Consultation Paper on "Valuation and Reserve Price of Spectrum"


Reference at Pg. 11

Reference irrelevant / not-substantive.


TRAI Recommendations on "Application Services"


References at Pg.18 and 19.

At Pg. 18: " 1.29 Net neutrality advocates no restrictions by Service Providers on content, sites, platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and no restrictions on the modes of communication allowed. Issue of net neutrality started in early 2007 when it was revealed that Comcast, a provider of broadband Internet access over cable lines intentionally blocked the traffic of peer-to-peer (P2P) applications and gave other Internet traffic preferential treatment. "

At Pg.19:" 1.31 The issue of net neutrality for ASPs providing services on OTT model will be dealt as and when required."

ii. Keyword: "Network Neutrality"

Total No. of search results returned = 16 (Google), 8 (Bing)

Relevant Hits: 11.



Name of Document


Relevant Page



Presentation titled "Regulatory implications of migrating to NGN" made at the TRAI - Seminar on Next Generation Networks by Matthias Ehrler


Pgs. 6 and 15

Presentation by expert covers neutrality implications of migrating to next generation networks.


Presentation titled "Management of QoS" made at the TRAI- Seminar on Next Generation Networks by J. Scott Marcus of wik consult.


Pgs. 10, 11, 15 etc.

Presentation by expert covers neutrality in the context of QoS.


Response of Microsoft to Consultation Paper on "National Broadband Plan"


Pgs. 1-2


" 2. Network Neutrality Openness has been the key to the ever-expanding nature of the Internet. We would urge that the Authority adopt a light-touch regulatory approach to network neutrality that appropriately balances the needs of consumers, network operators, and those of content/ application / service providers as well as those of device vendors. Some respondents have called out the Authority's attention towards this aspect and it is important for the Authority to chart a course that harmonizes the interdependent values of innovation and continued evolution of a robust network infrastructure while promoting consumer choice and freedom online. e suggest that the Authority undertake the following three steps in this regard: a. First, adopt the widely-accepted principles that consumers have the right to access and use the content, applications, services and devices of their choosing and to receive reasonable information about their Internet access provider's practices; b. Second, adopt a behavioral standard intended to prohibit Access Provider discrimination that is anticompetitive or harms consumers, and bar Access Provider conduct that violates the other core, open Internet principles, such as allowing access to lawful content, applications, and services of the user's choosing; and c. Third, implement an expert and efficient enforcement mechanism to identify and prohibit unlawful forms of discrimination. This framework would achieve a sensible balance by allowing Access Providers the flexibility to not only appropriately manage their networks by distinguishing, if necessary, among different types of traffic but also enter into business arrangements with content providers that are transparent and do not discriminate in a manner that is anticompetitive or harms consumers ."


Presentation titled "Migration to Next Generation Networks" made at the Workshop on Migration to NGN by Martin Lundborg, Stephan Wirsing Martin Lundborg, Stephan Wirsing


Pgs. 30-36.

Presentation by expert covers Network Neutrality in the context of content and licensing.


Presentation titled "NGN: UK and European Frameworks" made at the TRAI Seminar on NGN by Rekha Jain.



Presentation by expert covers network neutrality as implemented by European authorities.


Presentation titled "NGN Interconnection" made at the TRAI- Seminar on Next Generation Networks by J. Scott Marcus of wik consult.


Pg. 41, 43 and 46

Presentation by expert covers neutrality in the context of QoS.


Presentation titled "Migration to Next Generation Networks" (Introduction to NGN) made at the Workshop on Migration to NGN by Martin Lundborg, Stephan Wirsing Martin Lundborg, Stephan Wirsing


Pg. 25

Cursory reference to important regulatory aspects of NGN Migration


Presentation titled "Migration Studies Challenges and Migration Studies, Challenges, and Implementation Case Studies" made at the TRAI- Seminar on Next Generation Networks by J. Scott Marcus of wik consult.


Pg. 6.

Cursory reference to public policy challenges in NGN Migration


AUSPI's Response to the TRAI Consultation Paper No. 6/2011 on "IMT Advanced Mobile Wireless Broadband Services"


At Pg.10: " In an effort to encourage network neutrality, Google asked that the spectrum be free to lease wholesale and the devices operating under the spectrum be open. Google's specific requests were the adoption of certain policies such as open applications, open devices, open services and open networks. Currently many providers such as Verizon and AT&T use technological measures to block external applications. In return, Google guaranteed a minimum bid of $4.6 billion. However, this model of broader eco-system players playing a part in spectrum auctions has not seen significant success, with Google in this instance not winning any licenses. Even if regulator wants to keep the market open for non-telecom players, broader eco-system players can participate through M&As which are likely to be permitted under the new telecom policy. "


Response of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia to TRAI Consultation Paper on "Issues relating to Media Ownership"



At Pg.30: " Convergence: Despite convergence, there remains fragmentation in the approaches adopted by regulators towards intervention in telecoms and other sectors. However, issues of access, network neutrality, non-discrimination and protection of intellectual property rights ("IPR") are recurrent themes. These are issues that are familiar to competition authorities. Moreover, technological changes may break down these demarcations further. However the real challenge that convergence poses is increased uncertainty in respect of the speed of technical change and its effects in the short and longer runs. Regulators/competition authorities run the risk of 'getting it wrong' either by applying old style/stringent regulations and/or mistaking transitory profitability for abuse. A cautious and flexible approach is required. The application of old style regulations to such evolving markets is not recommended; it may stifle investment and innovation. Regulation should be flexible enough to take account of the evolving market dynamic and be informed by the best assessment of how markets are likely to evolve. TRAI's proposed intervention does not even come close to this dynamic approach since it is predicated on an assessment which is four years out of date. It does not take account of the increased diversity and competition currently prevailing and likely to develop in India over the next 3 to 5 years and beyond. "


Counter Comments of Reliance Communications to TRAI Consultation Paper on "Interconnection Usage Charges"


Pgs. 230 (Internal Pg. 41 of appended document)

Appended ERG DRAFT Common Position on Next Generation Networks Future Charging Mechanisms / Long Term Termination Issue document analyses questions in relation to QoS and Network Neutrality in the US and other jurisdictions.

[1] See (Last visited on 08-03-15).

[2] See (Last visited on 08-03-15);

[3] See (Last visited on 08-03-15); (Last visited on 08-03-15)

[4] See (Last visited on 08-03-15); (Last visited on 08-03-15)

[5] See

[6] See (Last visited on 09-03-15); For a video of the interview, see (Last visited on 09-03-15).

[7] See (Last visited on 08-03-15).

[8] See (Last visited on 08-03-15)

[9] See NDTV report dated 16-02-15 at (Last visited on 09-03-15).

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