The Telecom Commission today approved net neutrality rules which bar service providers from discriminating against Internet content and services by blocking, throttling or granting them higher speed access. Some mission critical applications or services like remote surgery and autonomous cars will however be kept out of the purview of net neutrality framework. “The Telecom Commission (TC) today approved net neutrality as recommended by Trai expect some critical services will be kept out of its purview,” Telecom Commission Chairman Aruna Sundararajan told reporters here.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended restrictions on service providers from entering into agreements which lead to discriminatory treatment of content on the Internet. Trai had favoured tweaking of licensing norms of players to ensure “explicit restrictions” on discrimination in Internet access, based on content. The Department of Telecom will set-up a multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality comprising government representatives, IoT providers, telecom operators, civil society members and consumer organisations. DoT will seek recommendations from Trai on traffic management for critical services.
TC also approved the new telecom policy — National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018 — for seeking approval of the Union Cabinet, Sundararajan said. “Everybody in the meeting today said that digital infrastructure is even more important than physical infrastructure for India… CEO of Niti Ayog (Amitabh Kant) said that for…districts, we must ensure digital infrastructure is provided at the earliest. Therefore, India must have ease of doing business and enabling policy environment,” she said. The NDCP aims to attract USD 100 billion or about Rs 6.5 lakh crore investments, 40 lakh new jobs, 50 megabit per second broadband access to every citizen in the digital communications sector by 2022 with the help of reforms.
An official, who was part of the meeting, said that the TC has approved installation of around 12.5 lakh WiFi hotspots in all gram panchayats with viability gap funding of around Rs 6,000 crore by December 2018. Under the WiFi project all police stations, post offices, primary health centres, schools will be connected with WiFi services by December 2018 and there will be 1-2 additional WiFi hotspots that will be available for round the public access throughout the day. The TC has also approved avoidance of double tax on virtual network operators (VNOs) who provide retail services of telecom operators.
According to the proposal approved, VNOs will be required to pay levies based on their adjusted gross revenue earned from any value addition that they will be do over the top of service they will buy from telecom operators for selling it to end consumers. The telecom commission has also approved rules for running pilot projects that will be funded from Universal Services Obligation Fund. The pilot projects will be aimed at exploring alternate broadband connectivity technology other than prevalent at the moment like WiFi and mobile Internet and also look at addressing connectivity solutions for less developed districts.