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Internet services should be non-discriminatory: TRAI on Net Neutrality

Published On : 28 Nov 2017

New Delhi,(IANS) The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday came out with its much-awaited recommendations on Net Neutrality holding that Internet services should be non-discriminatory. It also suggested that the government set up a body to monitor violations.

"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," a release issued by the sector regulator said.

It also said the scope of the proposed principles on non-discriminatory treatment apply specifically to 'Internet Access Services', which are generally available to the public.

The TRAI said Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.

The paper said the Internet Access Service Providers may take reasonable measurements for traffic management, provided the same are proportionate, transient and transparent.

"The Telecom Service Providers (TSP) shall be required to declare their Traffic Management Practices, as and when deployed and the impact it may have had on the users. The disclosure requirements shall also include information about specialised services, direct or indirect arrangements entered by them," the regulator recommended.

The TSPs and the over-the-top (OTT) players have locked horns over the issue of net neutrality. The regulator was debating the issue for almost two years now.

Rajan S. Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators' Association of India, said the recommendations are in line with what the industry had suggested.

"However, we have asked for broader approach on OTT issues and the development issues like connecting the next one billion to Internet and how to incentivise it," Rajan told IANS.

"Though TRAI has not restricted adoption of reasonable traffic management practices by the telecom service providers, it requires a bit more thought. The recommendations tend to be a bit simplistic, when you see it in light of increasing complexity in the economics of internet," said Amresh Nandan, Research Director, Gartner.

"While protecting democratic values, there is a need to create incentives for investors to invest in infrastructure. This is particularly important, when the focus has to be on innovation to find alternate/even superior mechanisms of communication," he added.

The TRAI said for monitoring and investigation of violations, a collaborative mechanism has been recommended to be established in the form of a multi-stakeholder body comprising members representing different categories of TSPs and Internet Service Providers, large and small content providers, representative from research and academia, civil society organisations and consumer representatives.

Rajan said forming of a committee was not needed. "This is unnecessarily bureaucratic because Telecom Ministry already has the power and mechanism to handle such a situation."

The Authority in its 55-page recommendations said that the terms of various licence agreements governing the provision of Internet services in India should be amended in order to incorporate the principles of non-discriminatory treatment of content by Internet Access Services along with the appropriate exclusions and exceptions.

Talking about Internet of Things (IoT), the TRAI recommended that the IoT as a class of services should not be specifically excluded from the scope of the restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment.

"Those critical IoT services, which may be identified by DoT as satisfying the definition of specialised services, would be automatically excluded," it added.

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