Internet should be open and free, and not cannibalised: TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman R.S. Sharma. File

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman R.S. Sharma. File   | Photo Credit: G.R.N. Somashekar

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman R.S. Sharma has called for the Internet being kept open and free, and not cannibalised.

“No one owns the Internet... so, it should be open and accessible to everyone,” Mr. Sharma said, suggesting that service providers should not indulge in gate-keeping of this important platform.

The TRAI issued the much-awaited recommendations on Net neutrality and has sought to bar service providers from any discriminatory practice on Internet access.

Mr. Sharma said the Internet was an important platform for the country, especially in the context of innovation, start-ups, online transactions, government applications and the Digital India programme. “So, it is important that the platform is kept open and free and not cannibalised,” Mr. Sharma said.


Asked about the Indian regulator upholding principles of Net neutrality when, in fact, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has proposed to roll back the Net neutrality rules of 2015, Mr. Sharma said the TRAI had kept the Indian context in mind while framing its recommendations.

“We have 500 million Net subscribers and 1.3 billion population... big things will happen on the Internet and it is important to keep it open.” Networks should be neutral for the content being accessed. “Networks should not prefer one content over other... should not block or offer fast lane [to certain content],” he pointed out.

Certain exemptions and exclusions

The TRAI, in its recommendations, has, however, allowed certain exemptions and exclusions, including specialised services and time-critical Internet of Things services (like autonomous cars).

These specialised services — the likes of tele-surgery etc — will be identified by the telecom department, which will also take a final call on the TRAI’s overall recommendations on Net neutrality.

The TRAI has also stated that Content Delivery Networks, which enable telecom operators to deliver content within their network without going through public Internet, should be exempted.

Service providers are allowed to take “reasonable measures for traffic management provided they are proportionate, transient [only for the duration of some emergency event], and transparent.”

Pending decision by the telecom department on its recommendations, the TRAI would continue to enforce the conditions of licensing that advocate non-discrimination.

Asked about the fine that would be imposed for any violation, Mr. Sharma said the penalty for violation of licence conditions would also be applicable in such cases and no separate penalty was proposed by the regulator for violation of Net neutrality rules.

The regulator would come out with a consultation paper on Over The Top (OTT) “very soon,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 1:26:53 PM |

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