Operators also told to connect to Internet exchange mandatorily

The Deputy National Security Advisor has asked the Telecom Department to look at ways to route domestic Internet traffic via servers within the country.

This follows the recent expose of the US Government accessing Internet data from across the globe, including users of Google and Facebook in India, through servers located in that country.

The NSA has asked the DoT to look at the possibility of making it mandatory for all telecom and Internet companies to route local data through the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI). For example, an e-mail sent from Delhi to Mumbai may now be routed through servers in the US for which the ISPs need to buy international bandwidth. If all the ISPs connect to the NIXI then this data can be kept within the country.

“Such an arrangement would limit the capacity of foreign elements to scrutinise intra-India traffic,” said one of the officials who attended a recent meeting to discuss this issue. Senior officials from the DoT, NIXI and National Security Coordination Secretariat were present in addition to the Deputy NSA.

At present only about 10 per cent of the domestic traffic is bzeing routed through the NIXI. Formed in 2003-04, NIXI was supposed to act as a local router of Net traffic but not many operators have connected to it. “Deputy NSA stated that efforts should be made to ensure that 100 per cent intra-India traffic was routed within India. This may necessitate a review of the formula for charges levied by NIXI,” the official said.

Cost-saving plan

While security concerns may be driving this proposal, if this happens then Internet companies could save on the cost of buying international bandwidth. This will in turn lead to lower data tariffs. However, this is not the first time that this proposal has been mooted. This system was first suggested by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in 2007. An internal DoT committee had also backed the proposal in 20102 but the DoT has not made any serious attempts in putting a policy in place until now. But Government officials said the PRISM expose in the US has brought in urgency at the highest level.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 14, 2013)
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