Trai backs net neutrality; says internet services must be non-discriminatory

With this, TRAI has effectively drawn a red line and shunned calls from telecom operators for creating fast and slow lanes on the internet depending on the data and service you wish to use. "Nobody owns the internet".

In February 2016, TRAI had ruled in favor of net neutrality by prohibiting discriminatory tariffs for data after an extended campaign by internet activists, who argued that Facebook's Free Basics platform and other offerings by Indian telecom companies violated net neutrality principles. While the regulator has not laid down a clear definition of specialised services, it said the DoT may identify these services, and the status should only be given if a service follows two broad principles.

In India, the whole debate over net neutrality erupted in 2015 when Trai came out with a consultation paper on the regulatory framework for over-the-top services.

Furthermore, TRAI barred service providers from entering into any kind of arrangement with any entity that would result in discriminatory access. CDNs enable telecom deliver content within their network without going through the public internet in order to create a content ecosystem to drive user traction.

Experts suggest that the CDN exemption could strengthen the position of integrated operators which also provide content.

That means no blocking or throttling content, and no fast lanes for content sources that offer to pay for the privilege (with an exclusion for content delivery networks).

Further, Trai wants telecom operators to declare their traffic management practices as and when deployed and the impact it may have had on the users.

The regulator explicitly stated that all content should be available to consumers without any discrimination or restriction.

However, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General Rajan Mathews said the suggestion to form a committee to review and decide on network management violations is "unnecessarily bureaucratic", and not in keeping with "light touch regulation or the ease of doing business".

If adopted by the Modi government, Internet service providers would not be able to engage in practices such as "blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content". "Hence, such a heavy-handed approach is not necessary, as is now being proposed by TRAI", Mathews said.


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