TRAI to issue Net neutrality recommendations tomorrow

Javier Stokes
November 29, 2017

Campaigners from across the country collected millions of signatures to pledge their support for net neutrality.

TRAI first made a decision to deal with the issue of differential pricing of data access.

The development comes at a time when the United States government's Federal Communications Commision (FCC) announced plans to repeal net neutrality regulations that were adopted in 2015. The move is likely to give service providers a say on what content consumers can access.

The overarching thought that we had was for a country like India, internet is an extremely important platform.

Telecom sector watchdog TRAI on Tuesday issued its recommendations regarding the much debated issue of net neutrality. Networks should not prefer one kind of content over another.

Trai's consultation paper on Net-neutrality was sought by the Department of Telecom (DoT) following the suggestion of a High Level Committee which proposed regulation of domestic calls on Internet-based apps by putting them at par with services offered by telecom operators.

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"The authority has recommended an amendment to the license agreements to clarify the principle of unrestricted access given under the appropriate license agreements".

Exceptions to these recommendations include services that will not constitute the violation of net, reasonable traffic management practice, security concerns, measures of an global treaty among others. "However, critical IoT services, which may be identified by DoT, and which specify the definition of specialised services, would be automatically excluded". The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said it was disappointed that the authority did not adopt the industry recommendation to have a wider approach to net neutrality, and that issues of OTT players were not considered. CDNs are exempted from the scope of any restrictions, TRAI added.

"We expect Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel to be key beneficiaries as they already have presence in content platforms", the report said. In principle it means no service provider can discriminate internet speed and cannot offer preferential access to its customers.

"This principle would apply to any discriminatory treatment based on the sender or receiver, the network protocols, or the user equipment, but not to specialised services or other exclusions". Internet of Things (IoT) as a class of services are not excluded from the scope of restriction on non-discriminatory treatment.

The regulator has asserted that there should not be any intervention of equal access to the internet to everyone, irrespective of the content. Trai has noted that the licensing terms should be amplified to provide explicit restrictions on any discrimination in internet access based on content.

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