TRAI comes out with 'recommendations on net-neutrality'

Ann Santiago
November 29, 2017

While the telecom department will have to take a call on the regulator's recommendations, TRAI has also reserved the right to regulate and enforce non-discriminatory access within its framework.

Backing the idea of free and open internet, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) upheld net neutrality in its recommendations on Tuesday.

Backing net neutrality in India, the telecom regulator TRAI has said it is not in favour of any "discriminatory treatment" of data, including blocking, slowing or offering preferential speeds or treatment to any content.

"The Licensee is prohibited 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 of content", it added.

An Edelweiss report said that recommendations to exclude content delivery networks (CDNs) from net neutrality restrictions will give integrated operators like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio an upper hand versus pure play connectivity providers.

Consequently, on issues that concern consumer protection, transparency and monitoring of compliance, the telecom regulator may go ahead and issue regulations as it sees fit.

The US regulatory agency, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Republican Ajit Pai, will vote at a 14 December meeting on a plan to repeal rules on net neutrality.

TRAI has moved to prevent big Internet service providers from unlimited power in deciding what Web content customers can get and at what price.

Even as TRAI's recommendations are being hailed by Net Neutrality supporters, it is worth noting that these are still recommendations and that the implementation still holds the key for a full-fledged rollout.

According to TRAI, operators must be barred from blocking, degrading or slowing internet traffic selectively. It further applies to Internet of Things (IoT) as a class of services, with the exception of IoT services as specialised services, that may be specified by the TRAI.

Telecom operators and those who provide apps are at loggerheads over the issue of net neutrality and with Trai taking a clear stand, peace could emerge between the two sides. "However, critical IoT services, which may be identified by DoT, and which specify the definition of specialised services, would be automatically excluded".

Industry body representing Internet firms Internet Association Mobile Association of India (IMAI) lauded the recommendations, calling them progressive and pragmatic, which recognise the requirements of expansion of digital services in the country. He should have the freedom to exercise traffic management practices.

We have recommended the changes in the licence and other provisions, therefore whatever will be the penalties for violating the licensing conditions will also be applicable here.

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