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March 10, 1998


TRAI adjourns proceedings in 15 cases

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has adjourned proceedings in 15 cases since the preliminary issue in all these cases - that of the TRAI's jurisdiction over licensing issues - is now before the Delhi high court.

The TRAI is, however, expected to hear other cases, it is learnt.

Email and Internet service providers filed these petitions over certain clauses
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TRAI adjourns cases
in the Internet policy and cashing of bank guarantees and cancellation of licences.

The TRAI has adjourned the hearings since the high court is scheduled to hear an appeal filed by the Department of Telecommunications on the jurisdiction issue.

Present alternate draft: Potential Internet service providers, meanwhile, have presented a document with proposed changes to the Internet licence to the TRAI.

The changes are based on the draft licence agreement that DoT has made available on the Internet.

The crucial issue for the potential ISPs is direct connectivity to the international Internet backbone. The licence proposed by DoT requires ISPs to terminate their traffic at the nearest Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited international gateway, and VSNL will carry the traffic further.

The ISPs expect to be billed in proportion to bulk rates negotiated by VSNL with international carriers for connectivity to the international network. Since most Internet content is located within the US, VSNL delivers Internet traffic mostly to the US backbone through US carriers such as MCI.

Indian ISPs have been saying that they should be allowed to negotiate directly with international carriers so that they can determine rates as well as destination. As a representative of one ISP pointed out, "Right now, even if we want to direct our traffic to Japan or Singapore, we cannot, since VSNL routes it mostly to the US.''

Tariff is another moot issue. VSNL has been maintaining that since it negotiates bulk rates, its rates would be the cheapest.

ISPs, on the other hand, want to be free to negotiate their own tariffs. International carriers, such as AT&T, have been saying that a group of ISPs negotiating together could get attractive rates.

The Department of Telecommunications has been maintaining that direct international connectivity cannot be permitted due to security considerations.

ISPs have been pointing out that since the government permits software companies to send data traffic and log into the Internet through 'international private leased circuits'; the same rules should apply to them as well.

Such circuits are also switched through the VSNL international gateway since the government-owned company is the exclusive provider of international communications services in India.

But software companies are assured of reliable lines since a dedicated circuit is reserved for them, irrespective of traffic flow.

ISPs are pointing out, that under the present licence conditions, all outgoing Internet traffic is routed together with no provision for companies to reserve dedicated circuits. They point out that they, therefore, cannot ensure any minimum service quality.

These companies would like to lease circuits like software companies, and have a say in determining the terminating carrier.

In such an arrangement, national security as well as regulatory restrictions are not compromised since the circuits are switched through VSNL, they point out.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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