ISPs may be stopped from offering private leased line services
Thomas K. Thomas
New Delhi , Sept. 10
INTERNET Service Providers (ISPs) are in for a major setback with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) proposing to restrict them from offering private leased line services.
While the telecom regulator is considering to ask the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to resume provision of leased line resources to ISPs, the latter may be allowed to use it only for providing Internet-based services.
This will come as a big blow to Internet operators who get a significant part of their revenue from corporate leased line services like virtual private network (VPN).
The fight between BSNL and ISPs over the issue has been hanging fire for the last few months. The high point came when BSNL stopped offering leased line services to ISPs on grounds that they were misusing the infrastructure to offer services that were beyond the scope of their licence.
BSNL had argued that ISPs, who do not pay any entry fee or licence fee, should not be allowed to offer corporate leased line service as it was infringing on the turf of long distance operators. Companies such as Sify, HCL Infinet and Tata Internet had made representation to the regulator against the stance taken by BSNL.
The telecom regulator has taken a position favouring BSNL by saying that the public sector company was justified in its demand, as ISPs were not eligible to provide services such as VPN.
This service is used by large corporates to network all their branch offices spread across the country.
However, a TRAI report on the issue said that BSNL was fair in demanding that ISPs can use the leased lines only for Internet purpose and not resell it, because they were not entitled to do the business of reselling bandwidth leased from other telecom service providers.
The telecom regulator has also sought the views of the Department of Telecom (DoT) on the issue and would give its final directive in the next few weeks. DoT officials said that the department was looking at allowing ISPs to offer VPN services but only after paying an entry fee to level the playing field with long distance players.