IIT, IISc professors come out in support of net neutrality

  • Omkar Gokhale, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 22, 2015 22:46 IST

While the Parliament debated the issue of net neutrality and internet users organised online campaigns for the cause, around 50 professors from the country’s premier technological institutions issued a joint statement on Wednesday in support of the cause.

The professors, from Indian Institute of Technology (including Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Patna, Kharagpur and Kanpur), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and IIM Calcutta, have, in a joint statement, requested the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to maintain net neutrality in the country.

The professors countered arguments made in the TRAI’s March 27 consultation paper based on technical aspects of digital networks. The consultation paper is called ‘Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services’. TRAI has asked the stakeholders to send their comments and feedback by April 24.

The professors’ joint statement said, “There are no sound technical or economic reasons to violate net neutrality. In fact, such violation threatens the essential idea of the internet itself. We urge the TRAI to maintain net neutrality in its strongest possible form, as this is crucial for a digitally empowered India.”

Bhaskar Raman, professor, department of computer science engineering, IIT-Bombay, said, “The consultation paper includes several arguments for why network neutrality must be compromised or weakened. We request the authorities that it is necessary that the provisions should be made within the ambit of net neutrality and operators should not take different benefits from it. "

Raman added, "For example, recently some network operators charged differently for Skype calls, which is against net neutrality and it should be stopped.”

What is net neutrality?

Network neutrality (or net-neutrality) is an operational principle of the internet, where Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or telecom operators should be neutral to the origin and destination of any traffic and the content of the traffic.

ISPs should enable access to all content and applications regardless of source and without favouring or blocking particular product or websites.

Counter points to the TRAI consultation paper

1. Congestion
According to the professors, the consultation paper argues that net neutrality must be violated to solve congestion in the network and claims that 10% of mobile users actually consume 90% of operators’ bandwidth.

- Professors while opposing it suggested that the congestion can be addressed by looking only at the quantity of data instead of who is using it, while preserving net neutrality.

Professors cited an example:

“If a road network is facing congestion, it would be absurd to charge road tax based on the identity of who is using the road, or based on whether the commuter is going to a bank or to a grocery store next to the bank.”

2. Service differentiation
According to the joint statement, the TRAI consultation paper aregues that net neutrality must be violated to provide service differentiation, which is necessary for example in telemedicine applications or for specific business customers.

- However, professors said that net neutrality does not mean there is no service differentiation. However, it should be left to the customer- wherein the choice for better service is made by the end customer, not by the network.

3. Professors claim fundamental idea behind the internet is under threat
When telecom network operators seek more control of how much traffic is used to which website or application, the fundamental idea behind the internet is under threat as small developers or business will find it difficult to develop a website or a smart-phone application.

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