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India's ISPs Want Payola from Big Portals 352

knorthern knight writes "Story on The Register. America's biggest content providers could face a toll to enter India cyberspace, if plans mooted by the Indian ISP trade association bear fruit. Although the Internet Service Providers Association of India is split on the issue, several of the larger ISPs want to block access to eBay, MSN or Yahoo! unless the prociders pay a toll. 'In order to increase revenue streams we should ask [the portals] to pay if they want traffic on their sites from India,' reports the Hindustani Times."
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India's ISPs Want Payola from Big Portals

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  • Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by csnydermvpsoft ( 596111 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @02:53AM (#3984427)
    I don't see how this would work. If the sites didn't cough up the dough, and were blocked, then a single ISP would gain a huge advantage by not blocking the sites, and advertising as such. I know I'd switch to that ISP.
    • I find it interesting, that only big american sites are mentioned, that don't really offer anything that can't be done easily with local companies.

      You all assume, that indians are interested in ebay. Here in Europe, for an example, getting stuff from ebay is a really big hassle and with shipping costs added not worth most of the time. I guess with india it's even worse. If there happen to be an indian big auctioneer working the local market, it's very likely that ebay isn't of interest only to a very small minority.

      But as written before, most likely those site won't care about indian traffic anyway, as most of their advertisers are interested in american consumers only.

      In the end, this could promote the devlopment of a strong asian counterpart to the big american sites. It happened before with Lineage in Korea.

      I wonder, if they're going to block Doubleclick and their ilk next.
    • Re:Won't work (Score:3, Insightful)

      by po8 ( 187055 )

      My impression is that the ISP association would seek legislation to enforce the "tax" on every ISP, whether a member or not. This is certainly how such things are done in the US (Internet radio tax, blank CDR tax, etc.). Presumably the bad-guy ISPs would be both good at and motivated to assist the Indian government with enforcement.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I wish an ISP in my area would block /. I'd get a lot more done.
    • by codexus ( 538087 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @06:04AM (#3984897)
      The solution is simple: Block the ads from those portals.
      That's even worse for the portal and the ISP customers are happy.
    • Re:Won't work (Score:3, Insightful)

      But that ISP will have to charge more, because it will have higher international bandwidth charges to pay. So in practice, Indian users would be back to square zero, use an affordable ISP, or pay more for "free" access to Yahoo, etc.

      As an aside, I think the ISPs have a point. There's no reason why overseas ISPs, especially those in countries with lower incomes per capita, should shoulder the entire cost of connecting to US commercial entities. US ISPs don't have those levels of costs imposed on them, and Yahoo, eBay, etc, exist in order to make money from the people who connect to them. It's reasonable to suggest that they should help pay the costs. Any other outcome is essentially overseas ISPs subsidizing US businesses.

  • It just goes to show you how the internet is all about money now.... pity.
  • Doubtful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jhunsake ( 81920 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @02:54AM (#3984433) Journal
    I doubt they will pay, because that would set a bad precendent, and then they'd be beholden to other countries as well.
  • If there's a demand for these services, the customers will bug their ISPs big time about it. I don't see any reason why the portals should pay up. In fact it could be argued exactly the other way around: If it wasn't for the big portals, all those ISPs woul be out of business because nobody needs an internet line if there's no content.
  • The portals won't pay ISPs to deliver their traffic. Imagine the cost if they caved in to these Indian ISPs and other ISPs throughout the world decided they'd like to try it too?

    Anyway, I doubt it would work. Surely the ISPs existing users have a contractual right to a "best effort" ability to send packets to and receive them from Yahoo's web server, for example? That is in fact what they are paying the ISP for. It is, in fact, the defining service that an ISP offers.

    As far as new users are concerned, would you choose a) an ISP who will deny you access to web sites you want to contact, or b) one who will allow you access to anything you want? Simple market forces would mean that people would chose the ISPs which weren't attempting to extort the large portals.

    Yahoo not being usable from XXXX ISP would be a much greater problem for XXXX ISP than for Yahoo.

  • that in India there is 1,000,000,000 people. That's roughly 1/6th of the worlds population.

    Okay, so all of them wont be surfing the internet. But even if 10% would that would still be 100,000,000 and imagine if only 10% of those would be surfing MSN , eBay or Yahoo! that would be 10,000,000. I bet that's worth paying for.
    • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:32AM (#3984580) Journal
      Some points to note []:
      • India has 2.2 telephone lines per 100 citizens
      • 0.4% of the population uses the Internet, not 10%
      • high poverty levels are limiting Web access to the few that can afford it
      • "Shopping is still considered a family duty in India, so online shopping may not be as popular as it is in the West"
      U.S. tech firms are flocking to India for developers because they will work for about what a Silicon Valley developer pays in rent (this I've heard in-person from developers who were flown to the U.S. for several weeks of training before being sent back -- a lot of them are brilliant, but they have to take what the market in India offers because they can't stay in the U.S.). If that's any indication of the economic state of India, I doubt eBay is that desperate to reach the Indian market.

      Yahoo isn't going to pay some smart-ass ISP for the priviledge of allowing Yahoo to distribute its already free content.

      And MSN will laugh at them: "You want us to pay how much? OK, but we're invoking the terms of our EULA that allows us to remotely control your systems."

      • Also, there *are* some decent Indian portals around, which pretty much provide the same services as yahoo or msn, with local flavor. Frankly, i would expect indians to hang around those sites, not on MSN or yahoo.

        Also i'd eat my hat if more than 5% of Indian netizens browse slashdot.

  • Bass-ackwards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kwishot ( 453761 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:04AM (#3984481)
    America's biggest content providers could face a toll to enter India cyberspace...

    Actually, it's preventing Indians from entering outside "cyberspace", not the other way around.

    There's only one group of people that can be hurt by this, and I guarantee you it's not the .com's. Unless India really provides *that* much traffic and generates *that* much revenue for these portals, it's just not worth it.

    Doesn't anyone remember this [] story? Hardly an infrastructure to use as a chess piece...
    • Right, and even if India is providing *that* much traffic then it's going to be that much harder for the ISP's to convince their subscribers that they can no longer get, for example, Ebay.
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:04AM (#3984482)
    How long before Yahoo, etc., charges for packets going in the other direction, e.g.:

    "If the Indian ISPs want their users to be able to access our content, then they will need to pay".

    If a large number of content providers cut off one Indian ISP, and allow their neighbor, and it won't be long before the first ISP caves in (or goes under).

    All it would take is one Indian ISP who decided owning the majority of the Indian users monthly payments was more important than extoring additional money out of barely profitable American Internet content companies.

    Could be a nice opportinuty for AOL or EarthLink to try to swallow the Indian market whole, as well.

    -- Terry
    • by mortenf ( 191503 )
      In Denmark, a group of the largest "content" providers teamed up to discuss demanding payment *from* the ISPs, the rationale being that the ISPs made all the money on users acessing the sites.

      It seems they have now dropped the idea, and instead are going for a micropayment solution - it's up and running, but so far only a handful of sites have implemented it (among those a county office charging for access to individual receipts in a large administration scandal).
    • I said something similar earlier. Hell if I were a portal that had to pay Indian ISP's I'd be fucking with them until they dropped this ridiculous shit. Ebay exec's if you're listening, check this out. Pay the tax and allow access from only one ISP show all other identifiable indian ip's a page stating that so and so isp is the only one able to access that site. Watch the numbers for ISP subscriptions in India. When subscribers start cancelling their current service to get on the ISP who CAN carry the portal sites,... change which ISP can carry the site. Repeat.
  • In other news... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:07AM (#3984491) Journal
    A consortium of now bankrupt US ISPs, in control of major portions of the transcontinental backbone, decided to charge Indian ISPs a fee for access to major portal sites such as Amazon, Yahoo, etc., in addition to major corporate sites such as Microsoft, Oracle, and Adobe. When asked why such a fee was necessary, a spokesman for the US ISPs said, "In order to accurately account for our costs, we must ask the Indians to contribute their fair share in exchange for the traffic that we peer for them.

    No comment so far from the Internet Service Providers Association of India. The major portals so far are ignoring both groups.

    </sarcasm> Are the Indian ISPs really this stupid?
    • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Informative)

      by rodgerd ( 402 )
      It already happens. All US telcos and ISPs refuse to peer with non-US providers, arguing only US traffic has any value. Non-US providers already get reamed in exactly the way you describe.
      • It already happens. All US telcos and ISPs refuse to peer with non-US providers, arguing only US traffic has any value. Non-US providers already get reamed in exactly the way you describe.

        What do you mean "reamed"? Peering only makes sense when traffic between networks is roughly equivalent, i.e. for every Mb network A sends to network B, network B sends a Mb to A. It's nothing to do with the value of the traffic per se, because the carrier's customers concern, it's the volume that matters, because that's what the carrier's customers are paying for. Otherwise, the network that receives more than it sends is subsidized by the sending network.

        If the carrier's customers are only interested in US traffic, then by definiton only US traffic has value, because the carrier's customers won't pay the carrier to carry anything else.

        This is how it works with voice telephones too.
        • Peering only makes sense when traffic between networks is roughly equivalent,

          Whether peering makes sense for a network depends on a huge number of factors,
          and the ratio of traffic is rarely a factor when one or both networks are "endpoints",
          and often is not a factor even when both aren't.

          For example, if Alice sells web hosting and Bob sells dialup,
          then peering between Alice and Bob makes economic sense for both of them,
          even though the vast majority of the traffic flows from Alice to Bob.

          Q: When a package is shipped, who pays, the sender or the receiver?
          A: It depends. That's why FedEx allows either method.

          -- this is not a .sig
          • I think the problem here may be with the word that's used. Like it or not, the term "peering" implies an equivalance in traffic. We all know that such an equivalance simply doesn't exist. There are far more areas outside North America that want in than vice versa.

            Even your example works only for a dial up provider in the First World. What does E-bay care if a farmer outside of Bangladore can't get to their site? His annual income doesn't equal the reserve price on a Welcome Back Kotter lunchbox!

            If you're saying that this isn't fair, you're right, but I'm still looking for the rulebook that states life is fair in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @05:04AM (#3984792)
      Um, check your facts...for the most part US ISPs do charge extortionate amounts to their foreign counterparts.

      For instance, most Pacific Asian countries (inc Australia) get charged for line lease and data travelling both ways between that country and the US.

      This is regardless of who initiated the data transfer, in other words an Australian ISP hosting a page that is viewed by someone in the US is still charged for sending data back to the USA.

      I wish you guys knew how good you have it. The cost bias is one of the factors that inflate the cost of Internet connections (and ultimately broadband) high in areas outside the US. ht ml te rnetPolicy/scottspeech.htm (scroll to slide 13 and onwards)
  • by MrByte420 ( 554317 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:09AM (#3984498) Journal
    On one side this makes sense from their perspective. International bandwidth from what I understand costs a bundle to provide and usually most of this cost is not picked up by the US which is generating most of the content to begin with. Europe I hear has similar problems with paying an arm and a leg for transatlanic traffic, etc. On the other hand this sets dangerous precedent. How can we expect the internet as we know it to stay free with this kind of scheme. The cost for these portals traffic is already built into the wholesale general cost of traffic that ISP's sell each other and eventually to the end user. It seems as if they just want to double dip on this access. Secondly how are content providers who already pay big $$$ for their pipes just to get their material out of their server farms start going to then start paying carrier fees as well. What we are going to end up with is the internet becoming like basic cable. You pay for a few channels here or there but if you want the premium channels you gotta start shelling out. This method of billing breaks the IP protocol as we know it. The net is supposed to be mostly blind to the traffic that it is throwing around. If routers stop universally moving traffic this is going to get ugly very quicky. Good bye univeral routing. hello pay tv internet.
    • If european ISP's are really that concerned with the traffic generated by portals, they should buy a few 100 Gig drives a RAID controller, download squid and setup a transparent proxy. Problem solved. On average a proxy server will save 50% of your traffic, btw these are real stats from major ISP's that run HTTP proxies. The major amount of traffic comes from P2P networks, when FastTrack was still running port 1214 traffic accounted for more then 50% of the traffic
  • eBay, Yahoo, et al should charge the ISPs for the privilege of presenting their content.

    • eBay, Yahoo, et al should charge the ISPs for the privilege of presenting their content.

      Exactly. Without content, ISPs would have far fewer customers. The Indians have badly misunderstood the business if they think that they can get users to sign up without content providers being accessible.
  • wasn't there a slashdot story at one point where content providers in Norway (not sure) wanted to band together and demand a percentage of what ISP made, because "they were the reason people got on the internet".

    Now it's the other way around - "we provide you with customers, so give us some money"

    Very funny.

  • So what if these sites doesn't pay up?

    Sounds like the ISPs essentially would be screwing their own customers by disallowing them to visit popular sites despite having paid for internet access...

  • Prediction: (Score:3, Funny)

    by tuxedo-steve ( 33545 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:21AM (#3984544)
    This ridiculous feint at getting some quick cash by the Indian ISPs will be forgotten by this time next month.
  • Solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quintessent ( 197518 ) <my usr name on toofgiB [tod] moc> on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:25AM (#3984558) Journal
    if the "Internet Service Providers Association of India" is going to do this as a group, then let the "Internet Content Providers Association of America" declare that if any of their members are blocked, then the others will also block themselves.

    India will then choose to have the big sites on the Internet or not.
  • by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:27AM (#3984559)

    Indian Isp Organization (IIO): Pay or we block your portal!
    MSN: Are you sure about that?
    MSN: Block us and we block India.
    IIO: OK, maybe not.

    The Internet is self healing. It is designed to route around problems. Play nice children.
  • Who pays the bill? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lennart78 ( 515598 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:30AM (#3984574)
    It's quite clear. Someone has to pay the bills. Routers don't buy themselves, infrastructure doesn't just materialize.
    How many telecom/datacom companies have we seen go bankrupt in recent time? I've lost count.

    In Holland, an ISP tried to gain revenue by giving out stock. Huge mistake. Stock devaluated rapidly, company bought by the Italians, not heard much of 'em since.
    A number of companies use 'creative accounting' to make things look better, but we've seen what that leads to.

    Maybe it has something to do with scaling, and in a couple of years 4 out of 5 ISPs will have been weeded out, to leave a few strong, healthy ISPs. But right now, it doesn't seem like an ISP can live of the revenues of user accounts.
    Since no customer is very willing to pay twice/thrice the price he's paying allready, revenues must come from another direction.

    So either the government must put up a program to help their people onto the net (but since India is not that rich, that's not likely), or the revenues must come from the other side of the line, the content providers.

    But then again, how many content providers are able to cough up a bag of dollars/euros for every ISP in the world? Putting an extra strain on them will probably increase the amount of banners, popups and spam on the web.

    I think it's a bad idea.
  • by nagarjun ( 249852 )
    If anything, the sites have a better chance of collecting money from the ISPs. After all, if Yahoo/MSN etc. are not available, you are taking away one killer app (web browsing), though the other (email, provided by the ISP) would still be available. So if they are not available, why would I want an Internet connection at all?

    Since the parties need each other, it is a matter of bargaining power: right now, it is about even, with a slight tilt towards the portals.

    1-2 years back, Wired reported that some portals in Norway (I think) tried to bully some ISPs into a revenue-share. Wonder what came of that?!
  • by shri ( 17709 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <cmarirhs>> on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:38AM (#3984599) Homepage
    I have no idea why this is a problem. I run a couple of fairly high-trafficed sites which cater to an Indian audience and getting any money out of the folks from India is a PAIN. Most don't have access to internationally accepted credit-cards and a fair amount of traffic is from students who would not be able to afford the dollar transactions.

    Why cant the ISP's say just charge those premium subscribers? For Option 1 -- Indian sites only, subscribers pay $1 / month (hypothetical) and for Option 2 -- Access to all sites including international and porno subscribers pay $50 a month.

    Would be simpler than building complex legal traffic / royalty arrangement with the major portals.
    • Why cant the ISP's say just charge those premium subscribers? For Option 1 -- Indian sites only, subscribers pay $1 / month (hypothetical) and for Option 2 -- Access to all sites including international and porno subscribers pay $50 a month.

      So which option would fall under?

  • at some of India's largest ISPs are smoking crack.

    I hope they go forward with the plan. Reading the resulting string of articles on slashdot will be better than watching a sitcom on TV.

  • Peering internet traffic reminds me of the Prisoner's Dilema.

    First, the Prisoner's Dilema: Two prisoners are in separate cells. The prosecuting attorney says to each one separately: "If you rat on the other guy I'll give you less time". If they both rat then they both go to jail for a long amount of time. If one rats and the other doesn't the one that didn't goes to jail for a long sentence. The one that did gets set free for cooperating. If they both don't rat they get a plea bargain and get a short sentence.

    Now for the telecom analogy: If one telecom charges another to peer traffic, the telecom that charges makes a lot of money and the one that doesn't looses a lot. If they both charge then they both loose because they won't send hardly any traffic and their customers will use less because of the high prices. If they both don't charge then they both win, because they do a lot of isp business and the market grows. The catch is, like the example above, if one of them charged and the other didn't the one that charged would do better than the one that didn't as compared to how the one that charged would have done if they had cooperated.

    What is the solution for prisoner's dillema historically? It's tit for tat. If you defect (and rat on me). I will defect (and rat) on you. This works very well in games that are played over and over again. So what's going to happen is that the big portals are going to start charging the isps and vs. versa until they both decide to cooperate.

  • All bull (Score:5, Informative)

    by Karna ( 80187 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:52AM (#3984639)
    This story is very very shady. Note that there isn't a paper called Hindustani (note the i) Times. There's Hindustan Times and it's online version has no mention of this at all.

    There have been various messages flying up and down Indian telco lists such as India-GII [] that this is blatently untrue. Move along, there's nothing here to see.

    • All NOT bull (Score:4, Informative)

      by yora ( 254503 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @05:43AM (#3984864)

      This story is very very shady. Note that there isn't a paper called Hindustani (note the i) Times. There's Hindustan Times and it's online version has no mention of this at all.

      Hindustan Times is one of the larger newspapers in india. It is the largest selling newspaper in the capital city of Delhi. I get this paper, and this news was the main headline on the front page of the newspaper a few days back.

      The online versions of most of the Indian newspapers don't carry all the news items.

  • by udhay ( 10304 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @03:54AM (#3984644) Homepage Journal
    See this comment from a list I run, by an office bearer of the ISP Association of India - the organisation which is supposedly behind this scheme. ul y/002003.html

    Looks like we have misquoting to thank for this "story".
  • I have a hard time really caring what lame brain schemes third world nations and companies invent to give themselves their weekly foot-bullet.

    The only area where I have any opinion about countries like India is when it comes to immigration. Tech firms here are exploiting everyone by either bringing foreign workers in on temporary visas as slave labor, or simply exporting the job itself to india where they can pay ten cents on the dollar compared to american wages.

    The best solution I see to this is to encourage immigration. I might have more people to compete with, but I won't be competing based upon price so much. I'd rather lose my job to someone living here than lose it to someone living in Rangoon. Besides, just imagine what an influx of talent and intelligence will do for our gene pool?


  • by Paul Johnson ( 33553 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @04:56AM (#3984777) Homepage
    This won't happen. Market forces have already sorted out the way that ISPs pay each other, and the Indian ISPs are swimming against the tide.

    The food-chain in ISPs looks something like this: Customer -> Tier 3 -> Tier 2 -> Tier 1, with each level paying the layer above for access. Tier 1 ISPs are people like UUNet with global reach. Tier 2 are national or "regional" (e.g. EU, Americas, Asia-Pacific). Tier 3 are local ISPs, and customers are both individual users and hosting companies.

    Actually there is nothing stopping a customer or Tier 3 ISP from signing up with a Tier 1 ISP, and many do. But the principle is the same.

    There are two kinds of link an ISP can have to other ISPs: Transit and Peering. In a transit link an ISP pays a larger ISP for access to "the Internet". In other words the smaller ISP can route packets through the link to any destination and expect to receive replies via the same route. In a peering relationship two ISPs, usually in the same Tier, agree to exchange traffic, usually without payment, but with the proviso that only traffic for customers of the other ISP is to be routed through that link. You can't send traffic to B through your peering link with A (although there are sometimes mutual backup link terms in the agreement).

    You can think of this in your own terms quite easily. You have a transit link with your ISP that you pay for. But if you and your neighbour exchange a lot of traffic you might string an Ethernet cable between your houses and create your own peer link. But it would be very bad manners to use that link to pinch bandwidth off your neighbour.

    The market forces that created this system are very straightforward. Originally the Internet worked with free transit links, but then the people investing in global networks realised that all the smaller ISPs were getting a free ride, and so they started demanding payment. This happened around 1996-7, and you can find lots of discussion papers from that time worrying about "the balkanisation of the Internet". In fact nothing of the sort happened. Metcalfe's law saw to it that everyone found more value from being connected to an unbalkanised Internet, and the net effect (sorry) was that money flowed from you and me up to Worldcom, and much good it did them. Meanwhile the smaller ISPs found that peering arrangements helped them to cut their costs because peer traffic avoided the expensive transit routes.

    Thats not to say that things are so simple in real life. Peering arrangements in particular are fraught with difficulty because it usually means negotiating with your direct competitors, and you can play all sorts of dirty tricks like "hot potato" routing (routing packets to your nearest exit point instead of the globally most efficient one). But thats the general idea.

    Incidentally the economics work like this regardless of the direction of most of the bits. People who tried to analyse the Internet using telephone economics got this wrong, because with the phone its usually the caller who pays. On the Internet the "caller" is hard to identify and the rules for doing so keep changing. And in any case the issue is irrelevant. You have content providers who want to reach readers and readers who want to access content. (Peer to peer changes the numbers and locations, but not the fundamentals). Both pay ISPs to provide this service, and those ISPs then pay the next tier up, and so on.

    So now we look at India, where a bunch of Tier 3 and 2 ISPs are demanding payment from Tier 1 ISPs. The Tier 1 ISPs will rightly tell them to get lost.

    I suppose that the Indian ISPs (who are mostly consumer ISPs) might demand payment from content providers such as Yahoo, Slashdot and co, on the grounds that the content providers want to reach Indian eyeballs. But I don't see this flying either. Those Indian eyeballs want the content just as much as the providers want to provide it, which is why you get no-payment peering arrangements between content providers and consumers: its the flow of value that counts, not the flow of bits.


    • Very informative bit on transit relationships, although I think a more hardnosed analysis would suffice to explain why this won't work.

      Loss of Indian eyeballs is worth probably zero to major western portals; 35% of the population lives below the poverty line and probably another 35% doesn't have the purchasing power to buy anything other than basic staples.

      This may not be true for portals that have a local variant (Yahoo India or something), but you have to wonder if web economics don't work in the West, how can they possibly work in country with such a high rate of poverty?
    • Paul, thanks for the explanation. BTW, this is the first Slashdot comment I've ever bookmarked!
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @05:17AM (#3984809)
    After looking around, it seems like the original TheRegister article disclosed only partial information; the provider list is correct, but the services and the reason for blocking are not (though the effect would be to extort some money and/or partnerships with Indian ISPs).

    The actual point in question was the blocking of voice cht services, which by (new) Indian law can only be offered by ISPS, due to the failure of their law makers to distinguish voice chat from IP telephony, when they legislated to permit Indian ISPs to enter the IP telephony market.

    The concern appears to be that India requires a license, and requires that you be a Licensed ISP in India, to offer these services.

    Here is the original Press information from the ISPAI (Internet Service Provider's Association of India) web site:

    -- Terry
    • Mod parent up. The original Slashdot article has it all wrong.

      What this is all about is voice over IP vs. an overpriced state-operated telephone company. It's the old "voice over the Internet breaks the telco pricing model" issue. It's not about content at all.

  • Uh oh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @07:40AM (#3985076) Homepage

    A billion people. Significant natural resources. A booming and dynamic IT economy. A net exporter of goods and services. Nuclear capability. And, as we see, an attitude.

    When you read commentators speculating that India might be the next superpower, don't just scoff and assume that the status quo will preserve itself. This is just one of many signs that India is ready to try throwing its weight around on the world stage.

    It might get slapped down this time, but the sheer audacity of it is an eye opener. Up to now, only the USA has been able to impose unilateral conditions on world trade. It'll be interesting - but probably not very comfortable - to see what happens when India starts playing the same game in earnest.

    • The ISPs don't represent "India" any more than Nike or Microsoft represent the USA.

      India, the country might or might not want to throw its weight around internationally but the ISPs doing something has nothing to do with that. The whole country is not a borg collective where every piece knows what the other is doing.
    • Ah, but the minor problem here is that this is a governmental initiative and not a people intiative. It might actually be meaningful if Yahoo had physical offices in India like CocaCola or something, but they don't. Yahoo didn't go to India and say "We'd like to sell our products to you." The people are going to the source of the service, not the other way around. And if, like file sharing, those billion plus people decide that such restrictions are simply an annoyance, they'll ignore the imaginary boarders the government will erect in cyberspace. Trinagle Boy is a good place to start. If somebody finds a site they really found useful all of a sudden cut off they'll either pitch a fit or ignore the government. How many billions of those people use Yahoo-India email? What would YOUR reaction be if you suddenly couldn't get to it? Pissed? Just a little? Tell the truth! Sorry, but this just won't fly...
  • Part of me is against the gating off of part of the internet (which doesn't work in the long run anyway), but part of me doesn't really care if American businesses have to kick back some dough for the privelage of gaining an Indian market. India's pretty poor, and has a buttload of people in it...if taxing America's "New Economy" helps them, more power to them. The smart ones will find ways around anyway ("triangle boy"). I suppose this would probably be against "free trade" though.
  • On the whole I agree with the comments of others that this idea will probably not succeed.

    Indian traffic is probably too small to matter now, but the intent of the ISP's is to reduce competition in the future in support of local ebusinesses. Quite frankly, American ecommerce companies have an enormous advantage of being first to market in their respective fields.

    India's trade groups are pretty strong at blocking out international competition. In this case, they could block strictly ecommerce sites from consumers, provided that they wasn't enormous demand from consumers already for those sites (there isn't).

    Under this scheme, they could allow content sites, but block the big ecommerce sites. The problem is that the line between content and ecommerce sites is being blurred. Amazon, for example, has great commentaries on books and the literary world. And yahoo/microsoft, which provide free services, also features classified advertising. Making such a rule would tend to give an advantage to sites mixing both types of content.

    But don't for a moment think that Indian ISP's (or other third world countries) would simply buckle to international pressure. Indian ISP's want to make money and if blocking the site is as easy as entering an address on a routing table, then kudos to them for trying.

    Such a measure could work if the government somehow codified these fees should be and ISP's were ordered to comply. Such money could be used to support national infrastructure charges (in the best case scenario) or to line officials' pockets (in the worst case scenario).

    But don't fault them for trying. Actually, I kind of wonder why American ISP's didn't get this idea first.

    (BY the way, if American ISP's took retaliatory measures by blocking access to Indian sites, that might unblock those sites very quickly).

    You have to remember how wierd it is to view the internet in a developing country. Not only is a lot of it in English, but they probably see advertisements for dozens of American/Western companies and very little from their own country.
    It's a really easy target to choose.

    PS. I write about India and cyberculture on my []
    Asiafirst weblog.

  • how exactly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Restil ( 31903 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @10:13AM (#3985815) Homepage
    First off, if not ALL the isp's go along with this, nothing stops people from switching. And even if they do go for this stupid idea, what's stopping external proxies? Its one thing to simply deny certain domains or ip address ranges, its another thing entirely to scan all text that comes over the wire to detect and block traffic from specific websites, no matter how it made it to the end user.

    And who's to say that Ebay and others won't just tell the Indian ISPs to go screw themselves. Ebay doesn't exactly have much in the way of viable competition. If this goes through, they could probably turn around and demand money from the Indian ISPs instead or they'll block access. And when the ISPs own polices cause great dissent among their users, they'll be forced to pay up to return things to the way they once were.

  • Let's look at it from a legal point of view: Since portal sites like Yahoo are "in the open", i.e.: anyone can access them by simply typing their URL (or by clicking on a link of another sire), that would make them analogous to one walking past the street and seeing a sign for a business that says "Yahoo".

    So, when the Indian ISPs block these sites asking for a payola, they are in essence placing their hands in front of people's eyes and chaining them to the sidewalk telling them "you cannot view that yahoo store or go in there", even though it is the citizen's right.

    Now the question is, would this hold true in a court of law, and does India have a "freedom of expression" clause in its constitution to grant web surfers this right?
  • Um, don't the users go to the major portholes for service and not the other way around? Last I looked, I didn't see Yahoo (or anybody else) knocking on India's door to offer them their services. So what if they want a bribe. Screw em. The users will find a way around, just like in China, if for different reasons.
  • by fire-eyes ( 522894 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2002 @11:46AM (#3986598) Homepage
    Let's turn the tables on them. Lets charge them to access anything outside of India.

  • What's the point with portal sites anyway? As far as I'm concerned Yahoo and MSN are nothing more than those annoying pages that certain browsers and IM tools try to point my start page to.

    News coverage? Heck, even is a better source of news than the portals that put Britney Spears in the headlines (note that they only push their own products).

    Weather? Why get weather information from a bunch of middlemen that think that "doppler radar" is nothing more than a catch phrase?

    I admit that my start page points to the one EarthLink provides me, but not only does it tell me when I have e-mail (without having to sign up for a spam-laden free account), their USAA-branded service has information available that is just too obscure for the "real" portal sites to care about.

    I realize that most internet users more resemble my mother than me, but I've seen her surf and she doesn't spend any amount of time on the start-up page, she just goes to her favorites and goes to the sites she knows to do her thing. Heck, I'm not sure she'd notice if her start page somehow got pointed to she spends so little time and attention on it. How do these people make money? Arthur Andersen Consulting?
  • I don't think the Indian ISPs will get what they want, but I have been thinking about something similar for some time. Can this be a different model for ISPs?

    Here is what I am thinking - today the Internet is an all or nothing deal. If you have internet access, you reach ALL the websites. Why should it be that way?

    Take TV, for example. There are various packages of programming that I can purchase which determine whether I see just the local networks (Free!!!) or HBO. Why can't it be the same way for internet access?

    People who want to visit speciality websites need to pay a higher ISP charge than "regular" folks who only care about their email, some news and weather. The ISPs, pay some of this money to the speciality websites.

    Regardless of how this is actually implemented, I think the time has come for dividing up the Net in various smaller internets.

    What do you think?

  • India's ISPs can stick it in their collective ear
  • We could just block Korea & China and reduce spam by 80% :P
  • A contract in india isn't worth a lot, and until it is they will remain a 3rd world country. If someone makes a deal and it tourns out well (take the dabhol powerplant) the contract is ignored and people are shaken down for cash. The highway robbery in india will keep it down for as long as it goes on.
  • If India wants to continue to develop technologically as it is already doing and if it wants to bring its poor into some semblance of plenty then India should be perfectly happy to give normal and full open Internet to its citizens as quickly as possible. Putting roadblocks in the way is only likely to slow down India's progress. It is also a really bad precedent. The Indian government does not own its people's freedom to participate on the WEB and so cannot dole it out.
  • by piku ( 161975 )
    If anything, they have this whole thing backwards - don't you think it would make more sense if the ISP's were paying for the websites, not the websites paying for access to the ISP's?

    It would be like NBC suddenly going "You know what Tom Brokaw, you have ridden on our coattails for long enough. If you want to continue your nightly newscast, you must pay us, or we wont show it."

    Granted its a little different because NBC owns that broadcast, and those ISP's dont own those websites, but its sorta similar.

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