30 November, 2017
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has published its recommendations for upholding net neutrality guidelines (PDF) across the country today, and boy, do they look good - for consumers, that is.
The guidelines issued by India's telecom regulator state that no internet access service provider shall resort to any form of discrimination, restriction or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds.
Furthermore, TRAI barred service providers from entering into any kind of arrangement with any entity that would result in discriminatory access.
The Trai's support for net neutrality came at a time when a debate is raging over US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai's recent proposal to dismantle the 2015 rules, which require ISPs (internet service providers) to treat all content travelling through their pipes equally. Based on the responses received, open house discussions were held in three cities.
Trai had partially addressed the topic of Net neutrality in February 2016 when it ruled in favour of prohibiting discriminatory tariffs for data.
"Networks should not prefer one content over other.should not block or offer fast lane (to certain content)", he said.
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The move came after an extended campaign by internet activists against Facebook's free basics platform.
India's Net Neutrality advocates have lauded the regulators' recommendations.
Making an exception for specialized services, the regulator said such services could be provided as long as the service provider wasn't resorting to them as a replacement for "Internet Access Services' that are at the heart of net neutrality". Meanwhile, activists said the report did not mention a timeframe for implementing the recommendations.
The regulator has also suggested exempting CDNs from the scope of net neutrality rules, arguing that CDNs add efficiency to the network by reducing latency, mitigating congestion and freeing up network capacity for other purposes.
Telecom operators say that as the traffic is going through their infrastructure, for which they have spent crores of rupees, they need to get some control to manage the traffic.
Last week, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had also reiterated that the Centre is firm about its pro-net neutrality stance and that the right to access the internet is non-negotiable.