The global review of International Telecom Regulations (ITRs) is set to impact India’s 700-million-odd mobile users, as well as 100 million Internet users. Wireless broadband is expected to drive India’s Internet penetration objectives, outlined in the National Telecom Policy (NTP), 2012, as broadband on demand by 2015, 175 million broadband connections by 2017 and 600 million by 2020.
Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India, Rajan Mathews, said the government had sought the body’s views.
Countries such as Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been criticised for using the World Conference on International Telecommunications to place controls on the freedom of the Internet. This follows their joint proposal, “International code of conduct for global information security,” submitted to the United Nations in September 2011.
Similarly, the European Telecom Network Operators (ETNO) is lobbying a nuanced position that member states should be allowed to regulate interconnection arrangements, which could lead to the principle of “sending party network pays.” Simply put, this could mean increased costs for Internet users in developing countries, especially those requesting content from western content providers.
The push for a review on ITRs has come on account of several factors: a massive rise in data consumption; shrinking revenues of traditional fixed line companies, including the government, imperfections in the current Internet governance structure and the stated desire of some governments to regulate the Internet.
While the United States and like-minded nations are pushing to keep the Internet and roaming communications outside inter-governmental regulation, they are yet to propose a superior architectural and commercial framework to either counter the existing proposals or demonstrate substantive improvements in the current system.
Although a wider consultation is yet to take place in India, the civil society is keenly watching the space. “The government has not sought our views as yet, however, we firmly believe that while there may be a need to revisit the ITRs, no dramatic changes are required. No global regulator with an enhanced mandate to regulate the Internet will be acceptable,” Executive Director, Centre for Internet & Society, Sunil Abraham told The Hindu.