Today's Paper

Telecom regulator backs Net neutrality

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday came out in strong support of Net neutrality in a series of recommendations following a long process of consultations. “The licensing terms should be amplified to provide explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in Internet access based on the content being accessed, the protocols being used or the user equipment being deployed,” TRAI said in the recommendations.

The content mentioned includes all content, applications, services and any other data, including its end-point information, that can be accessed or transmitted over the Internet. Warning against any “discriminatory treatment” including blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to any content, TRAI stated, “The scope of the proposed principles on non-discriminatory treatment apply specifically to ‘Internet Access Services’, which are generally available to the public.” The recommendations are based on the pre-consultation paper issued in May 2016 and a detailed consultation paper in January 2017.

In a clear message to service providers, one of the recommendations reads, “The service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment.”

In February 2016, TRAI had barred telecom providers from charging differential rates for data services in its Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016, effectively blocking such attempts by Facebook and Airtel.

Facebook had earlier rolled out its Free Basics service in partnership with Reliance Communications as a “differential service” and lobbied hard for it on social media which put it at loggerheads with the telecom regulator.

TRAI has recommended a multi-stakeholder body which would be responsible for developing technical standards for monitoring and enforcement of the principles.