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August 5, 1997


Net Nanny

Govt moots Internet Management Authority to chaperone ISPs

The government has decided to set up a watchdog organisation to oversee the Internet service provider business once the sector is privatised next month.

The Internet Management Authority, similar to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the proposed Insurance Regulatory Authority of India, will monitor the functioning of private sector Internet service providers and keep tabs on the technical aspects of the services apart from liaising with international agencies and collaborators.

"The idea is to professionally mange domain registration while keeping it in line with international norms, and to function in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner," a senior Department of Telecommunications official explained.

Currently, domain management in the country is being looked after by the Department of Electronics' National Centre for Software Technology.

"After private sector operators are allowed to offer Internet services there will be a need to strengthen the entire mechanism and thus the need for a professional, competent and duly empowered neutral body arises," a DoE official pointed out.

The DoE, in a draft paper, has proposed that the IMA be built of DoT and DoE officials equally and that it should operate with the active participation of the private ISPs and other interest groups. DoE and DoT have already been asked to work out further modalities for IMA.

However, the move is being viewed sceptically by the private sector, in stark contrast to the welcome the TRAI received. "Even as the government throws open the Internet to the private sector. It is ensuring that monopoly in the business remains with the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited," a private operator complained.

A committee has recommended that international connectivity be provided only through VSNL's Internet gateways.

The Internet policy, that has been mooted and whose approval by the government is imminent, also includes a corollary that seeks to annul NCST's status as the sole domain name registrar.

A domain name is that part of a Web site address which indicates the name of the organisation followed by suffixes like a .com, .org, .edu which may reflect the nature of the organisation as commercial, non-governmental or educational.

It has also been reported that DoT wants NCST's domain name registration service to now come directly under the purview of the Telecom Commission.

It is learnt that DoT has recommended that a committee, to be chaired by a DoT official, be formed to monitor the domain name registration.

This committee is expected to comprise representatives of DoE and the Internet service providing companies.

Industry sources say DoT feels NCST should no longer continue in its capacity as DNS registrar since the ISP environment is set to change. Further, commercial Internet access is also possible now and this was not the case when the NCST service started years ago.

The National Association of Software and Service Companies, the apex industry organisation and lobby group, wants a clear set of guidelines that will help the growth of the Internet in India. It is in complete agreement with the development plans for the IMA.

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