After a lot of wait, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has finally decided to have broadband internet service providers offer a minimum broadband speed of 512 kbps from the earlier 256 kbps. A 100% increase in minimum broadband speeds. It might seem impressive but it pales when we look at the broadband speeds offered around the world. Consider this for example. The global average broadband speed is 6.1 Mbps while India has a global average broadband speed of 3.6 Mbps which is comparatively quite low but still around 7 times higher than the TRAI directive 512 Kbps. This shows how archaic the directive by TRAI actually is.

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Then there is also the fact that while Internet service providers have to offer the minimum speed of 512 kbps when it comes to the broadband internet, it hasn’t talked at all about the speeds offered for mobile internet connections where there is still a considerable difference in quality across providers.

The decision came as part of a directive issued on October 31st where TRAI said that internet service providers will have to ensure speed of fixed broadband connections doesn’t go below 512 kbps. In addition, TRAI has also asked internet providers to clearly provide information to customers about the speeds of their services, its usage limit as well as about the speeds when the limit is reached. They are also required to inform the customers over SMS when they have used up 50%, 90% and 100% of their limits.

While this directive of TRAI is a clear blow to some Internet Service Providers that don’t want a minimum broadband internet speed, when we look at some of the current speeds offered by providers this directive seems like a joke. After all, in this day and age of on-demand content, where we are currently seeing an explosive growth in the number of on-demand video and audio streaming sites, that provide everything from news, sports, entertainment and education it seems illogical that we are still stuck with a minimum speed of 512 kbps. In fact, TRAI itself knows that it is behind the times and had way back in 2011 recommended minimum broadband speeds of 2 Mbps.

Most broadband internet providers were already providing minimum speeds 512 kbps way before this directive by TRAI. Some are offering much higher minimum broadband internet speeds. BSNL had started offering a minimum internet speed of 2 Mbps for all its fixed line customers a month back.

This whole thing therefore only goes to show that TRAI hasn’t done enough to improve the quality of internet speeds in the country. While it has taken a number of steps in order to improve the quality of telecom services in the country,the same cannot be said on the internet front where it seems to be always one step late. So until TRAI decides to wake up and do something about the quality of internet services offered in the country, we are most probably going to be stuck with a life of the slow internet.

This whole affair shows that TRAI is doing very little to actually improve the quality of internet services in India. It’s unfair to say that the regulator is doing nothing to improve telecom services, and steps are taken to reduce call drops are welcome, if not necessarily completely adequate. Additionally, TRAI is doing its part to ensure an improvement in cooperation with Reliance Jio by other service providers. But until TRAI wakes up and refreshes its ideas on what constitutes proper Internet connectivity, we’re doomed to a life of slow Internet and remain at the mercies and wishes of Internet service providers.

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Written by Bajith Sasidharan

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