Aditya MadanapalleNov 03, 2016 11:37:55 IST
Trai has issued a directive to Internet Service Providers ensure that the customers are informed about the services they are signing up for, and the service providers are operating transparently.
The directive requires broadband service providers to clearly mention the speeds of the service, the usage limit, and the speed after the limit has been reached. Customers have to be informed over SMS as and when they approach their usage limits.
Trai has not updated the minimum broadband speed post FUP to 512 kbps in this directive. That revision happened way back in 2013, this directive asks service providers to maintain that lower limit. However, an official directive that maintains a minimum broadband speed of 512 kbps is hideously out of date, and shows that Trai is behind the times, even according to Trai itself. In 2011, as part of an exchange between the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Trai over the specifics of a National Broadband Plan, Trai had recommended a minimum broadband speed of 2 Mbps.
"It is universally recognised that the minimum speed as per definition of broadband in India is very low i.e. 256 kb per second. What has been proposed by the Authority as part of the National Broadband Plan is a minimum download speed of 512 Kbps immediately and 2 Mbps by 1st January 2015. It is absolutely essential that this definition is adopted; failing which, there will be serious quality of service issues." Trai itself shares the opinions of concerned internet users in the country.
Except for the plans in the lowest pricing tier, Internet Service Providers typically provide post FUP speeds between 1 and 1.5 Mbps voluntarily. MTNL has a post FUP speed of 1 Mbps. BSNL has started offering minimum broadband speeds of 2 Mbps from 1 October to all of its customers. Former IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had revealed his intentions of taking up the issue of minimum broadband speeds with the Communications Ministry. Prasad wanted to increase the minimum broadband speed to 2 Mbps.
Some ISPs have been demanding for a lowered minimum requirement to prevent exploitation by consumers. In a letter to Trai by industry bodies AUSPI and COAI, the service providers say that there should be no minimum requirement for data throttling.
"As a result, we are forced to keep the price at a higher threshold for every customer. Therefore, if broadband has to become affordable in the country, ideally, the Authority should not mandate any broadband speed after exhaustion of quota," say the service providers.
A letter by Airtel to Trai uses similar, if not identical wording to make the same point. The recommendation makes absolutely no sense because Airtel wants no stipulated minimum broadband speed after exhaustion of FUP, or if at all there has to be a minimum requirement, it should be set at 64 Kbps. "Therefore, if broadband has to become affordable in the country, ideally, the Authority should not mandate any broadband speed after exhaustion of quota. However, if the Authority wants to fix a speed limit is after the expiry of quota, it may be fixed at 64 Kbps," Airtel says in the letter.
The operators want to offer unlimited broadband plans, then add in a fair usage policy by limiting the amount of data consumed in the "unlimited" plans, and then throttle the speeds to functionally nothing. Instead of misleading customers so much, they can just stop offering unlimited plans and call it a day.
The directive by Trai is a clear blow to those ISPs that do not want a minimum required broadband speed. Consumers, Analysts, Experts, the IT Minister and Trai all want to change the definition of the minimum broadband speed.
This just goes to show how outdated the current definition is.