VPN license: ISPs take exception to TRAI

By agencies   |   Wednesday, 27 July 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Internet service providers have accused the telecom regulator of `consciously' and `deliberately' excluding crucial information in the consultation paper on imposing an entry fee on Virtual Private Network services.

"We are extremely shocked and intrigued to see that the consultation paper itself is devoid of important references and crucial information, especially the documentation provided by us — vide our letters dated May 11, 2005 and June 8, 2005, respectively. "Not only has the Authority consciously and deliberately excluded the third party material available to itself, it has even shied from including its own correspondence with the Government before the guidelines dated December 16, 2004 had been issued," said Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) in its response to the TRAI consultation paper.

TRAI had earlier issued a consultation paper on the issue of imposing an entry fee and a license fee on ISPs for offering VPN services. This was after the telecom dispute tribunal ordered the Government to undertake a consultation process before finalizing the quantum of the fee. The Department of Telecom had decided to impose an entry fee between Rs 10 million and Rs 100 million and a license fee of 8 percent of the annual revenue. ISPs have been objecting to the proposed move on the ground that VPN was part of the existing Internet license and the Government was favoring State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) by imposing the fee.

In a strongly worded reply, ISPAI said, "While the consultative process is an important aspect of a transparent and responsive regulatory institution, its veracity and effectiveness can be severely eroded if vital facts are amiss. This is a blatant, uncalled for and glaring example of suppressio veri (concealment of truth) — least expected from a regulatory institution."

Attacking the consultation paper, ISPs said, "It is no surprise that the consultation paper does not even ask the right type of questions as it suffers from the narrow perspective adopted therein and thus, cannot be expected to yield any useful and/or comprehensive responses, unless all relevant facts and documents are tabled before the public at large."

Internet operators claim that the level-playing field is tilted against the standalone ISPs. "Imposition of any license fee in the form of revenue share would only go on to increase the tariff to the end-users, thus ultimately reducing the competitiveness of the nation. Hence, the license fee should be nil as was done for the Internet telephony."

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