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Net neutrality: Experts hail TRAI recommendations, call on DoT for speedy implementation

TRAI’s recommendations on Net Neutrality are not binding rules as yet.

tech Updated: Nov 28, 2017 16:35 IST
Kul Bhushan
Kul Bhushan
Hindustan Times
Net Neutrality,TRAI,Net Neutrality India
TRAI in its new recommendations has backed the core principles of Net Neutrality.(Ramesh Pathania/ Mint)

India’s telecom regulator on Tuesday released its recommendations on Net Neutrality. As expected, the regulator has backed the core principles of Net Neutrality, stating that no service provider can discriminate or put a restriction or interfere in the treatment of content.

“A Licensee providing Internet Access Service shall not engage in any discriminatory treatment of content, including based on the sender or receiver, the protocols being used or the user equipment,” TRAI said.

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.

Apar Gupta, co-founder of Internet Freedom Foundation and closely associated with ‘Save the Internet’ initiative, said, “There are two main points that need to be looked at when considering TRAI’s recommendations on Net Neutrality. The first being the recommendation sent to the Department of Telecom, which requires subsequent action by both the department as well as relevant ministry to make binding rules to protect Net Neutrality. Though the covering letter indicates that TRAI may issue regulations in this regard, that will need approval from DoT.”

“Hence at present, the recommendations do not act as binding rules. Overall framing and recommendations are positive and supportive of international best practices to protect Net Neutrality,” Gupta said.

“However, there are certain concerns with respect to lack of definition and specifics. For instance, traffic management principles by themselves haven’t been defined by TRAI even though general principles for it have been indicated,” he said, hoping that DoT takes urgent action on the recommendations.

Nikhil Pahwa, founder of publication Medianama, who is also associated with the Save the Internet initiative and co-founder of ‘Internet Freedom Foundation’, said, “TRAI has upheld the net neutrality principles that it established with the Differential Pricing ruling — that ISPs should not be allowed to discriminate between online users on the basis of whether they are content creators or consumers. All users are both creators and consumers. This ruling ensures that no content will be sped up or slowed down on the basis of the source or type of content.”

TRAI, in its recommendations, exempted the ‘specialised service’, which has already raised several eyebrows.

“Specialised service i.e services other than Internet Access Services which are optimised for specific content, protocols or user equipment, and where the optimisation is necessary in order to meet specific quality of service requirements, shall be exempted from the principles of discriminatory treatment,” said the regulator.

However, experts believe the exemption will not affect the general public.

“There are some exceptions which have been allowed, but that is for services that don’t mirror what is on the Internet, or are critical services which need to be specified by the government,” Pahwa observed.

“Specialised services equally state that exception of specialised services should not utilised to circumvent overall implementation of net neutrality. Secondly, the exemption is to permit large intra-net and private networks to efficiently run networks to services which otherwise will not connect to private. This concern has also been noted in recommendations,” said Apar Gupta.

TRAI’s recommendations come at a time when the US FCC is rolling back its existing Net Neutrality rules, despite a wider criticism.

India had its own tryst with Net Neutrality after the telecom regulator blocked the zero-rating programmes by social networking giant Facebook in February last year. TRAI also banned the ‘differential pricing’, a practice where some services are provided to consumers in a special manner.

First Published: Nov 28, 2017 15:34 IST