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Re: Petition against Airtel "Fair Usage" Policy in India
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Mon, 2 Mar 2009 02:30:33 -0500

Begin forwarded message:

From: Rahul Tongia <tongia () cmu edu>
Date: March 1, 2009 1:04:17 PM EST
To: dave () farber net
Cc: ip <ip () v2 listbox com>, Rahul Tongia <tongia () cmu edu>
Subject: Re: [IP] Petition against Airtel "Fair Usage" Policy in India
Reply-To: tongia () cmu edu

Hi Dave,

I am writing from Bangalore...so I can speak from experience about DSL and more in India.

India has some of the cheapest DSL available, with 2 catches. All of the cheap plans are limited usage, sometimes as little as 1 or 5 GB (or less!) per month. IMHO, this is a good thing, allowing $2/month DSL for the masses (in a few cases, and $4-5 in most urban locations) Second, the advertised speeds are rarely achieved. Part of this depends on where the other end of the path is (domestic vs. international). Within India, the backbones are reasonable, at least compared to the very $$$$ international bandwidth.

To give a sense of how much plans vary BY USAGE, unlimited plans cost 3-5 times limited plans. The Airtel plan reduces by half the plan speed after crossing 40 GB of usage in the month. That's reasonably generous, considering most people I know have plans with some 1 or 5 GB caps, after which they keep their speed but pay 2 cents or so per MB! In comparison, free usage but at half the speed is quite reasonable.

Is this an ideal world? No. Speeds should be faster, usage unlimited. But if business models dictate some compromises, the airtel cap seems reasonable. There is no discrimination by usage/port/application, so any claims this violates net neutrality is bizarre.

In a land where there are power cuts daily, I am not sure what fraction of users would be impacted by 40 GB semi-caps (literally, half speed). My bet is this is going to be less than 1% of users, or even 0.1%.

Let's do some math. At 512 kbps rated speed (and note, Airtel often does better than the main competitor, the ex-incumbent, govt. co. BSNL, when it comes to real speeds compared to advertised speeds), 1.3 GB per day of usage is (ignoring overhead) just under 6 hours of full throttle downloading @512 kbps per day. Given practical speeds are sometimes slower, we're talking many hours of continuous "full-usage" per day. Other than people with specific needs/applications, this just doesn't seem like an issue.


Rahul Tongia, Ph.D.
Senior Systems Scientist

Program in Computation, Organizations, and Society (COS)
School of Computer Science (ISR) /
Dept. of Engineering & Public Policy

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 USA
tel: 412-268-5619
fax: 412-268-2338
email: tongia () cmu edu

David Farber wrote:
Begin forwarded message:
*From: *David Ian Hopper <imhopper () gmail com <mailto:imhopper () gmail com >>
*Date: *February 28, 2009 9:36:45 PM EST
*To: *dave () farber net <mailto:dave () farber net>
*Subject: **Petition against Airtel "Fair Usage" Policy in India*
For IP. Caps come to India. This sounds a lot like Comcast's extra charges. Here, though, most Internet plans have a limited download cap. The writer is up in arms because it would take the described Unlimited 512K plan -- blazing fast, yes -- and throttle it down to 256K if you exceed some unspecified limit. Calling this a reference to Net Neutrality could be pandering, or some confusion on the part of the writers. That said, the writers have a point. For a country noted for its tech companies, Internet infrastructure is, as they say here, "very less." According to the following post, though, the slow-down policy has already started:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: *admin () broadbandforum in <mailto:admin () broadbandforum in>* <admin () broadbandforum in <mailto:admin () broadbandforum in>>
Date: Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 3:21 AM
Subject: Petition against Airtel Fair Usage Policy
To: imhopper () gmail com <mailto:imhopper () gmail com>
Hi All,
As some of you may know, Airtel is introducing / has introduced a new policy called the "Fair Usage Policy" (details are sketchy) that seeks to curb the amount you download using 'unlimited' internet plans. What they are trying to get away with is saying that people are using too much of the internet and thus they need to curb your downloads / speeds, rather than upgrade their own infrastructure and equipment. In an nutshell, what it means is that if you have an unlimited plan that is, say, 512kbps in speed, after a certain cap they will halve your speed to 256kbps for the rest of the month, while charging you the same amount that they have been charging you till now for 512kbps for the whole month!!! Essentially they are giving you less (up to 45% less) service but for the same price!!! And the cap can be reached in as quick as 5-6 days if you are a heavy user. While you may feel that this only affects 'heavy downloaders,' it's an important issue for all to consider as it sets a very dangerous precedent for telecom companies to start implementing all sorts of policies. The day may not be very far (in fact many internet activists around the world say it's quite near) where the ISPs will control not only your speeds and download abilities, but will control what information you can access, thereby completely destroying what made the internet what it is today - a level playing field. This is popularly known as the issue of net neutrality, which gained considerable importance in the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections (which hopefully and thankfully ended with the selection of a candidate who is for net neutrality and against allowing giant telecom companies railroad consumers in order for profit). And if you think 'downloading' is important only for people downloading pirated movies, music etc. I urge you to read this page, which describes in brief the variety of legitimate applications that are out there which would be significantly stunted with the implementation of these policies. If you are not on Airtel, don't worry - If Airtel implements this policy, your ISP will follow (soon), which is why this petition is open to all. The internet today is the single most important tool for all the essentials of modern life - communication, education, business, politics etc. etc., and I urge you to not take this matter lightly. A few of us have started an online petition in protest, which we will be sending to Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman & Managing Director, Bharti Airtel Ltd. after we obtain a significant number of signatures. You can find the petition here. Please do read the petition as well as the other information that is on the site, make up your own mind, and sign it if you agree with it.
Please do use a valid e-mail address (which will be kept confidential) as you will need to confirm your signature for it to be counted. After signing you will get an e-mail, which is highly likely to be wrongly sent to your SPAM folder. Please check there if it doesn't come in your inbox, and click on the link therein to confirm your signature. We would appreciate it if you can (BCC) forward this e-mail to others who care about the future of the Internet in India.
Our thanks in advance.
Supporters of net neutrality in India
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