This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Akhil Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘I See This As A Threat To My Functioning’ – Letter From MP Supporting Net Neutrality

More from Akhil Kumar

By Akhil Kumar:

Advocates of Net Neutrality in India have found an unlikely ally in a Member of Parliament. Tathagata Satpathy, who is a member of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and was elected from the Dhenkanal constituency, lent his support for net neutrality by writing a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Rahul Khullar. Scroll down to read the full text of the letter.

Tathagata Satpathy

What is Net Neutrality?

Internet service providers such as Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone etc. are pushing for a move where you will have to pay extra for using different services on the internet. While big names like Facebook, Youtube, Skype, WhatsApp, Twitter, Flipkart etc. may be available to you for free on various networks, you might have to pay extra for access to small internet companies who can not afford to pay telecom operators. If you believe in equitable internet access, and support the idea of free and fair access to information, you must take action now!

I recommend that you watch this video by John Oliver explaining the concept in more detail.

How to take action?

Net Neutrality is crucial for free speech, equal opportunity and innovation, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wants to hear from you regarding the same. Services like Airtel Zero are sly ways in which telecom operators are violating Net Neutrality. Sign this petition asking TRAI to not allow differential pricing of services on the Internet & let the consumers choose how they want to use the Internet.

TRAI has released a document and is seeking your views through 20 questions. They are asking for your suggestions, here’s your chance to make yourself heard. You can submit your answers to the TRAI before 24th April, 2015 at advqos@trai.gov.in.

What exactly did the MP say?

Read for yourselves! Here’s the full text of the letter:

To,

Mr. Rahul Khullar,

Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, New Delhi

Subject: Dissent letter regarding TRAI’s move to allow violation of Net Neutrality

Date: 07/04/2015

Dear Sir,

I write to you as an everyday internet user. I use messaging apps to keep in contact with my staff, I use cloud services to prepare documents, I use internet video calling to get in touch with experts who are far removed from my location and, most importantly, I use email & internet based messaging apps to take public opinion from my constituents. Internet forms an integral part of how I do my work, therefore I see this move by TRAI as a threat to my functioning as a representative.

Along with this letter, I am attaching a document which contains all the answers to the questions you have put up for consultation. I must tell you that I have not prepared these responses. They have been prepared by an online community called Reddit India, where thousands of young men and women who feel deeply about the issue burnt the midnight oil to give TRAI a fitting reply. They worked on this document over and over. I watched, in real-time, people editing and amending this document to raise it to a point of perfection.

You have asked suggestions about charging separately for ‘Over-The-Top’ services. I see this as a detrimental move that is putting conditions on the access of internet. We are standing at a juncture where other developed countries are speaking about having internet access as a basic human right. Even the United Nations said back in 2011 that restricting access to the internet counts as human rights violation. Our Prime Minister speaks about a ‘Digital India’ and smart cities, an India that is looking towards the future and encouraging young people to be creative on the online space. The government even elicits public opinion on complex laws & acts over the internet. If this decision by TRAI goes through, it will not only go directly against the Prime Minister’s dream but also against the desires of those which wish to make India a modern nation.

I can compare the internet with electricity. If you start charging people separately for electricity that is used for heating, cooling, entertainment etc., there will be a massive outrage about that. The internet is essentially the same. It is a free medium and telecom companies operate pipelines that provide access. People are paying to access the internet and the data transfer, not because they want to use specific services which the phone companies provide.

When Tim Burners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, he could have easily turned it into his personal fiefdom and would have been a billionaire. But he had the foresight to see that this network will change the face of how humans will communicate with each other. He gave it to the people as a collective, so that no single person can dictate how the network operates. This is an essential element of why the internet is what it is today. This freedom allowed developers and engineers to get creative. Today, we carry the world’s wealth of human knowledge in our pockets. TRAI cannot control the internet by charging separately for services that are created by the very people who believe in the idea of free access to information and knowledge.

India is currently a country with the second largest base of internet users in the world, right after China. In your consultation paper, you have pointed out that 83% of these users access the internet through phones. The growth of mobile internet users in the last one year alone has been staggering. In this scenario, any person who looks at these figures would say that we have a vibrant and growing online business market.

Startup online shopping companies which were formed merely 2-3 years ago are today valued in billions. Telecom companies are seeing an opportunity to make more money by regulating the internet, by signing deals with these startups and giving their OTT apps free access. This move will essentially kill any new startups that don’t have enough resources to get permission from TRAI or tie-up with big telecom companies. While the present government is busy promoting ‘Make in India’ and encourage startups, TRAI is allowing big companies to form monopolies over the mobile web.

This is why Net Neutrality is important for each and every one of us. It’s not an ‘elitist’ problem, as many are arguing. It is going to affect even the poorest who now have cheap phones with internet enabled on them. As phones get cheaper and phone networks spread further, the number of internet users in India is going to shoot up. We might soon have the largest internet user base in the world. We are a growing country and we should have proper laws in place, not to regulate, but to encourage the use of internet.

The Information Technology Act that we have currently is outdated. It deals with Digital Signatures and Database Management which are outdated concepts. India Post recently discontinued Money Orders (MO) because today everyone can transfer money using their smartphones and data connection. We have a digital currency market called Bitcoin, which is also on a rise. In these changing times, it is of utmost importance for us to keep our laws updated. As law makers, we need to understand the very nature of the internet before we even try to regulate it. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the information technology and communication laws, after proper consultations with all the stakeholders and committees. The advent of social media, its impact and growth, possibilities of improving online markets, privacy laws and encryption, the whole gamut of issues need to be addressed.

Therefore, I oppose this move by TRAI which is infringing on Net Neutrality and I hope that you see sense in the arguments that internet users around the country are making. The internet is no more a ‘network that connects computers’. It is now a social network that will help bridge social, economic and regional divides.

Regards​,​

​Tathagata Satpathy​

​​Member of Parliament

Dhenkanal, Orissa

​P.S. Please find the original letter attached.​

COPY: 1) Hon’ble Minister of Communication and IT, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad

2) Hon’ble Chairman, Standing committee on IT, Mr. Anurag Singh Thakur

3) To all Hon’ble Members of Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha

To know more about what I think of this issue, reach me on Twitter at @Akhil1490

You must be to comment.
  1. Adv. Aishwarya Sandeep

    Hi,

    Even I had sent my reply to this questionaire, but I am yet to receive any acknowledgment (even an automated reply) for receipt of my email to TRAI. So here are my answers to your Questions Capitalist Government.

    Dear Sir/ Ma’am,

    I am an Advocate and a professor of Law from Mumbai. Please find hereunder my answers to the 20 questions asked by the Ministry. I also feel as a citizen of this country you should also clarify my few doubts which I have with respect to the same.

    Question 1: Is it too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services, since internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are generally low and there is limited coverage of high-speed broadband in the country? Or, should some beginning be made now with a regulatory framework that could be adapted to changes in the future? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : It is still too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services. We are in a process of learning and developing the Internet for various purposes. Today just because youtube is free it has brought the globe together. A housewife can learn about more recepies, students who cannot afford fancy coaching classes can take lectures from the best of the industry, on youtube. It is just because these applications are free of charge people are using it for their own growth and development, once these applications will be paid, the demand of these applications will automatically reduce therefore, the mobile companies and these application companies will start facing loss. Therefore I feel it is too early to have a regulation.

    Question 2: Should the OTT players offering communication services (voice, messaging and video call services) through applications (resident either in the country or outside) be brought under the licensing regime? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : Will the license assure me of protection of my data ? Will the licensing ensure that there are no more terror attacks in my city ? Will the licensing help in reducing the internet offences ? If yes then the licensing should apply but at a nominal charge and in case of any one of the above mentioned incidence the Service provider should be charged and suspended from further operating. For eg: If the terrorist uses a licensed messaging service of “A” from “B” network then the license of both should be suspensed and should not be allowed to carry out operation in India.

    Question 3: Is the growth of OTT impacting the traditional revenue stream of TSPs? If so, is the increase in data revenues of the TSPs sufficient to compensate for this impact? Please comment with reasons.

    Answer: I personally do not think so. Let the Companies file for their financial reports. If the companies were really going in loss, their offices would have shut down years ago. The increasing advertisements placed by the mobile phone companies featuring the best of the stars definatly dont show that these companies are in losses. A lot of the Service provides have a lot of money coming from Foreign Countries and even their revenue goes to the foreign countries was that ever questioned till date ?

    Question 4: Should the OTT players pay for use of the TSPs network over and above data charges paid by consumers? If yes, what pricing options can be adopted? Could such options include prices based on bandwidth consumption? Can prices be used as a means product/service differentiation? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : No the OTT players need not pay for the use of TSP Network as sufficient the TSP gets enough benefits from the OTT. A Lot of time the users select the TSP based on the speed at which he can run an OTT program.

    Question 5: Do you agree that imbalances exist in the regulatory environment in the operation of OTT players? If so, what should be the framework to address these issues? How can the prevailing laws and regulations be applied to OTT players (who operate in the virtual world) and compliance enforced? What could be the impact on the economy? Please comment with justifications.

    Question 6: How should the security concerns be addressed with regard to OTT players providing communication services? What security conditions such as maintaining data records, logs etc. need to be mandated for such OTT players? And, how can compliance with these conditions be ensured if the applications of such OTT players reside outside the country? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer: There should be more stringent as well as transparent laws with respect to the Data Protection in general. Security conditions like maintenance of the Data, easy access in case of emergency to the data, special provision for sensitive data. These factors need to be considered.

    Question 7: How should the OTT players offering app services ensure security, safety and privacy of the consumer? How should they ensure protection of consumer interest? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : OTT players should ensure security, safety and privacy of the consumer. The OTT players can mandate compulsary username and password for login. Within every 15 days the OTT should send the consumers a verification question so that they can make sure that the correct person is using the OTT. In case of any Complaint of DATA Theft or any other cyber crime the OTT should immediately i.e. within 48 hours provide the data to the investigating authority.

    Question 8: In what manner can the proposals for a regulatory framework for OTTs in India draw from those of ETNO, referred to in para 4.23 or the best practices summarised in para 4.29? And, what practices should be proscribed by regulatory fiat? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : I do not think that we can draw any inferences or references from those of ETNO. We need to consider that we are still a developing country and cannot just blindly copy the regulations of a developed country. We need to consider how the internet which is available for free is helping develop a lot of individuals. For eg. Just making a simple page on Facebook is helping a lot of small business men and women to introduce their products in local market. Putting charges or adapting the ETNO model means we are going completly against the Make in India proposal.

    Question 9: What are your views on net-neutrality in the Indian context? How should the various principles discussed in para 5.47 be dealt with? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : When I hear the term net neutrality for me it means equal rights to all the citizens including the service beneficiaries and the service providers getting an equal share of the pie in their own ways. The various principles discussed in para 5.47 can be implied if the TSPs are more customer friendly. The TSP should have more trained people to ensure transparency. Free Internet is definitely one of the ways in which we can have transparency, as then it would be easier for the users to cross verify take opinions from other users and do a thorough check on the TSP before implementing on 5.47.

    Question 10: What forms of discrimination or traffic management practices are reasonable and consistent with a pragmatic approach? What should or can be permitted? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : Any form of discrimination or traffic management practice which gives equal opportunities to all and ensures the security of the citizens should be permitted to practice. As it is said there cannot be equality among-st un- equals. We can give tax exemptions to the companies which have 71% Indian Shareholding or is incorporated in India as compared to the Foregin Companies. Similarly with respect to traffic management, we can use the above principle.

    Question 11: Should the TSPs be mandated to publish various traffic management techniques used for different OTT applications? Is this a sufficient condition to ensure transparency and a fair regulatory regime?

    Answer : Yes. The TSPs should be mandated to publish various traffic management techniques. This is not sufficient condition to ensure transparency. Transparency will come into existence only if every detail about the functioning of the TSP and the OTT activities together is available to the citizens.

    Question 12: How should a conducive and balanced environment be created such that TSPs are able to invest in network infrastructure and CAPs are able to innovate and grow? Who should bear the network upgradation costs? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : The network upgradation cost should be borne half by the Government and half by the TSP. The TSP can also raise their capital by various sources. If the TSP really needs the public money to develop then they can issue IPOs, why forcefully extort the poor. The people who want to contribute can contribute in this method instead of putting the burden forcefully on all. The government can relax tax and help the TSP.

    Question 13: Should TSPs be allowed to implement non-price based discrimination of services? If so, under what circumstances are such practices acceptable? What restrictions, if any, need to be placed so that such measures are not abused? What measures should be adopted to ensure transparency to consumers? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : If possible the TSP should not be allowed to implement non price based discrimination of services. As ultimately it is the choice and convenience of the user. IF the TSP restricts it services the user has no choice but to shift to another TSP. With the common availablity of dual sim card phones a user can benefit the facilities offered by two TSP. So technically if this discrimination is allowed then it would only further reduce the sales and revenue of the TSP.

    Question 14: Is there a justification for allowing differential pricing for data access and OTT communication services? If so, what changes need to be brought about in the present tariff and regulatory framework for telecommunication services in the country? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : Differential pricing for data access and OTT communication services should be permitted purely based on the quality of service provided by them. However, there should be strict upper limit set by the regulatory authority .

    Question 15: Should OTT communication service players be treated as Bulk User of Telecom Services (BuTS)? How should the framework be structured to prevent any discrimination and protect stakeholder interest? Please comment with justification.

    Answer : Yes they should be treated as Bulk User of Telecom Services. The framework should be structured in such a way that the OTT is allowed to raise its own capital and certain exemptions be given to the stake holders. Investments in such companies should be encouraged.

    Question 16: What framework should be adopted to encourage India-specific OTT apps? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : To encourage India specific OTT apps we should encourage investment in these companies so that these companies get a good boost and thus developing our own economy. If a foreign investor enters then even the revenue flows out from our country.

    Question 17: If the OTT communication service players are to be licensed, should they be categorised as ASP or CSP? If so, what should be the framework? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : If the OTT communication service players are to be licensed they should be categorised as ASP, because it clearly fits into the description as mentioned in the paper.

    Question 18: Is there a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services? Please comment with justifications.

    Answer : yes there is a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services so that it id accessible to all and the users can have a choice on the basis of the quality of services and not on the charges offered by them. This will make the OTT and TSP provide us with better quality services.

    Question 19: What steps should be taken by the Government for regulation of non-communication OTT players? Please comment with justifications.

    Question 20: Are there any other issues that have a bearing on the subject discussed?

    Answer : How much security does this net neutrality plan assure ?

More from Akhil Kumar

Similar Posts

By Ananya Bhuyan

By Shabeena Anjum

By Arya Jha

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below