Net neutrality gets a big boost: Govt approves Trai recommendations

Ruben Fields
July 14, 2018

In a move to ensure free internet in India, the government has accepted and approved the principle of net neutrality.

No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.

According to TRAI, operators must be barred from blocking, degrading or slowing internet traffic selectively.

India's Telecom Commission (TC) has approved net neutrality norms that bars service providers from discriminating against internet content and services by blocking, throttling or granting them higher speed access, officials said Thursday. The Department of Telecom has to define the technologies that will be allowed the exception where telcos will be allowed to use traffic management practices to maintain the quality of service, Sundararajan said.

The debate over Net Neutrality in India started when Trai came out with a consultation paper on the regulation of over the top players such as Skype and WhatsApp. The decision also carries with it the heft of TRAI's authority. Understanding the consequences of not having Net Neutrality, youths from colleges took a stand against the issue. This clause has been put in because these services often need to prioritise some things and situations over others. This lead to the BBC calling India's internet policies "the world's most progressive policy on equal internet access for all".

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The Department of Telecom will set-up a multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality comprising government representatives, IoT providers, telecom operators, civil society members and consumer organisations. Services that will be excluded from net neutrality rules include systems critical to the operations of businesses or organisations - known as mission critical systems - as well as remote surgery procedures and autonomous cars.

No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the objective of evading the prohibition in this regulation. "Therefore, India must have ease of doing business and enabling policy environment", telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said after the meeting of the Telecom Commission.

MediaNama's Aroon Deep discussing the new Net Neutrality policies.

Telecom companies can deliver their content without accessing the public internet on CDNs network. Trai and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, or BEREC, signed a memorandum of understanding highlighting a common understanding of the building blocks of net neutrality rules and the core aspects of both the regulators' responsibilities in preserving them. At least 29 states introduced more than 65 bills aimed at protecting net neutrality and seven states enacted executive orders that made it illegal for state agencies to enter contracts with ISPs that don't uphold net neutrality.

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