EASTERN CARIBBEAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY
DETERMINATION ON INTERNET NEUTRALITY
The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), through the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRC’s), initiated a public consultation on Internet Neutrality for public consultation. In its consultation document, ECTEL quoting from Tim Wu stated that “Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites and platforms equally. This allows the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application” and outlined the different approaches to the issue in different jurisdictions. At the end of the consultation paper, ECTEL put forward its own approach.
The initial comments period ran from the 23rd September 2013 to the 28th October 2013, and during that time submissions were received from LIME, Digicel, Columbus Communications Grenada Limited and NTRC Saint Lucia. The comment on comments period commenced on the 4th November 2013, and at the conclusion of the same submissions were received from LIME, Digicel and Columbus Communications.
SUMMARY OF ECTEL’s POSITION
Having reviewed the comments and the comment on comments, ECTEL:-
ECTEL’S PROPOSED CURRENT APPROACH TO INTERNET NEUTRALITY
ECTEL maintains that DPI constitutes an interference with the privacy rights of customers; however, ECTEL accepts that the practice can be used to ensure the integrity of the provider’s network. Therefore, ECTEL strongly urges providers to utilize information transparency as a means of treating with the privacy issues that may arise. Given that the objective of information transparency can be undermined if the information is presented in a manner that the average customer cannot comprehend, or published in a place where the customer may not have ready access to, it is recommended that all internet service providers provide consumers with coherent and readily accessible information on the broadband services that they offer. Such information should speak to the terms and conditions for the provision of the service, the average speed that the provider intends to supply during normal and peak times, the type of traffic management practices employed as well as the effect of those practices on the service and confidentiality of the consumer’s information.
In other words, ECTEL recommends that all internet service providers explain to customers the meaning of DPI, how it is used on their network, and the purpose for which DPI is used. The internet service provider should explain that DPI compromises the privacy of the information that the customer is sending over the network. The provider should in its terms and conditions of service undertake only to utilize DPI for the specific purpose of detecting viruses and maintaining the integrity of the network, and seek to obtain the express consent of the customer to utilize DPI. By providing the customer with all the relevant information, providers will be acting in accordance with the principles of information transparency, to which all of them in their responses to the consultation appeared committed.
ECTEL acknowledges that the current legislative framework is in need of reform, and as such, will continue to work assiduously to advocate for the promulgation of the Electronic Communications Bill, which will allow the regulatory authority to better treat with situations where DPI is utilized in furtherance of anti- competitive conduct. ECTEL also intends to work closely with the Eastern Caribbean Competition Commission, when it is established, to ensure that all anti-competitive conduct in the sector is dealt with.