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India Faces Its First Major Net Neutrality Issue 61

New submitter Siddharth Srinivas writes Bharti Airtel Ltd, India's largest telecommunications carrier by subscribers, will soon start charging users extra money for using services such as Skype, as Indian operators look to boost their data network and revenues. The Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI) is no stranger to Net Neutrality, having sent a note to the ISPs in 2006 suggesting a position for Net Neutrality. TRAI had also recently rejected a proposal by Airtel and other operators the right to charge for free services such as Whatsapp. Consumers await TRAI's response to Airtel's new pricing. With no laws enforcing net neutrality in India. India's Net Neutrality discussions have just begun, with proponents rapidly trying to increase awareness.
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India Faces Its First Major Net Neutrality Issue

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  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Saturday December 27, 2014 @02:18AM (#48678845)
    Using Internet through a VPN should prevent operators to figure out which site/port you are using (and DNS as well if name resolution goes through the VPN as well).
    This until many people are on a VPN and operators will start to charge VPN usage...
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      coming soon, https web interfaces to these services.

      • If Skype is the issue, a lot depends on how the provider intends to block it. Some sites just block port 5060 (IIRC), leaving the user free to configure his Skype client to use port 80. If the ISP tries to block that, there will probably be one or two complaints.
    • Re:VPN, again (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday December 27, 2014 @04:45AM (#48679041) Journal
      Ah, you need VPN? Our 'Business Connectivity' package is right over here. I'm sure you'll find it to be an attractive value...
    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      IPv6+IPSEC will prevent seeing which ports you're using.
    • by sudon't ( 580652 )

      I don't know what the situation is in India, but some US ISPs already limit VPN traffic. Do Indians have broadband choices, or are they subject to monopolies, as in the US?

      • India is even more complicated than the US.

        There are "monopolies" by local cable providers, but these are miniscule, hyper-local operators with 1,000-10,000 customers operating in very small areas rather than behemoths like Comcast. Some of them aren't even legal entities but will still throw their weight around if given half a chance.

        Most of the time, you do have a choice of which ISP you'll use via your LCO's infrastructure (strictly speaking, they are open networks, but they won't always admit it because

  • by webanish ( 1045264 ) on Saturday December 27, 2014 @02:21AM (#48678853) Journal
    As a soon-to-be ex-customer of this telecom giant, I'm doing the two things I can: Raising an almighty stink in all the channels I know, and obviously voting with my pocket by ditching them. Any other ideas would be welcome. I fear this is just the level-1 boss we're fighting against in the war against internet equality.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      et Airtel know how you feel. Doesn't matter if you ultimately switch to another provider or not. Initiate porting by sending SMS.
      SMS to: 1900
      SMS body: PORT
      example:
      Send
      PORT 9623456789
      to 1900
      This is initial step of porting. By doing this airtel will know you are willing to switch to some other provider. If you get a callback explain them why you are switching.
      If they get enough people threatening to change from Airtel, they will reconsider.

      • If this works the same way that it does in Europe, then even after you've gone through this you get a code valid for 30 days that you can give to another operator to port your number. This gives them a little window to try to change your mind and is a fairly good way to protest.
      • It would, unfortunately, need to be a significant number of people. Airtel has something like 15 crore (150mm) subscribers, so probably 1 crore (10mm) need to port. Being as big as they are, they wouldn't even notice a change of 1 lakh (100k) subscribers - to them, that's just about standard quarterly churn.

        Back in 2008-2009 they were the darling of tech-oriented people with the best plans, prices and quality of service (especially for wired options). Then they started pissing off that crowd and some of the

    • by t_ban ( 875088 )
      I already migrated to another service when Skype started being choppy on Airtel. Strangely, there was never any problem with torrents, only with real-time media. My present connection is a tad slower, but pretty solid.
  • We need to start a campaign to stop this kind of high handed ness. Do anything possible to reduce their revenue. The problem is that they own a substantial part of the 3g/4g spectrum. I regret the day the spectrum got auctioned away.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      et Airtel know how you feel. Doesn't matter if you ultimately switch to another provider or not. Initiate porting by sending SMS.
      SMS to: 1900
      SMS body: PORT
      example:
      Send
      PORT 9623456789
      to 1900
      This is initial step of porting. By doing this airtel will know you are willing to switch to some other provider. If you get a callback explain them why you are switching.

      If they get enough people threatening to change from Airtel, they will reconsider.

  • by diamondmagic ( 877411 ) on Saturday December 27, 2014 @03:13AM (#48678927) Homepage

    You can't say "We provide Internet access!" and then deny access to a range of TCP/UDP port numbers. You might be able to say "Web connectivity!" (and I have no problem with this), but not Internet.

    • Since the average dufus out there won't be able to tell the "fine" difference, I doubt they'd have a problem with this either.

  • But PORT 1234567890 to let airtel know what we feel about it.
    • Why does government care whether citizens pay more or less for internet services? If anything, they'd want to lower prices, so that they'd have more bragging rights in elections
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday December 27, 2014 @10:00AM (#48679519)

    Wanting to charge for WhatsApp was predictable. In fact, I predicted it.

    Globally (and a large chunk of it was in India), the SMS carriers lost about $9B to WhatsApp. This is why Facebook was willing to pay $18B to acquire it, since they wanted leverage over the carriers in those countries to force Internet access, because Facebook lives or dies by Internet access of its users. It's the same reason Google has so many initiatives to extend Internet access everywhere.

    The carriers have lost a large chunk of their SMS revenue, and Skype is converting a lot of their voice traffic to Internet traffic, and they are therefore losing money on that too. So they want to add fees for use of Skype to make up for origination, connection, call completion, and time-on-call fees which are going away as Indian users are discovering that if they have Skype to talk to people internationally, and the other person in India that they want to talk to has Skype to talk to people internationally, why, they can use Skype to *talk to each other* and cut out all the middleman fees for virtual circuit switching services.

    Telecom companies are quickly becoming the vendors of dumb pipes, with their only service level differentiator being what diameter of pipe you are able to get. And they very much do not like this. This is why we have things like data caps with huge overage charges, and video services that the carrier gets paid by the video, and it doesn't cost you against your data cap, but if you use someone else's video service, it costs you.

    And so they are fighting net neutrality tooth and nail, because their revenue streams are drying up.

    The really, really ironic thing is that if the telecommunications company had deployed these technologies themselves, they could have fit them into their existing tiering, and kept the majority of the profits that are now flying out their window. They would have had a reduced income stream, to be sure, but they would have had it, instead of it going to some third party.

    Expect Microsoft and Facebook to spend heavily to defeat these measures.

  • Between data caps and getting charged for various services imagine how expensive your phone is going to become, especially now that you use it for everything, talking, messaging, banking, shopping, and all the other things people do on their phones.

    They will make you dependent on your phone (they already have) and then they will bleed you.

    Just remember, we had a chance to put an end to this, and posting your nerd rage to Facebook isn't the way to do it.

  • by Xicor ( 2738029 ) on Saturday December 27, 2014 @09:12PM (#48682193)

    if they fail to do real net neutrality, then we can point at them and say 'do you really want to be like india?' and hope that the fcc actually realizes how much we need net neutrality

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