The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today recommended barring telecom operators from imposing any restriction, like reducing Net speed or blocking the access of any content or service available on the Internet, except in special cases like court orders and government directions.
Internet firms today lauded Trai’s recommendations on Net neutrality, which calls for unhindered access to content and services over the web, while telecom operators said that the regulator has applied a ‘narrow definition’ to the topic. They said Trai did not address the issues related to connecting the unconnected in India and licensing of apps or websites providing calls and messaging services such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and Google Duo. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today recommended barring telecom operators from imposing any restriction, like reducing Net speed or blocking the access of any content or service available on the Internet, except in special cases like court orders and government directions. “We had proposed broad approach on Net neutrality covering national priority of connecting the next 1 billion unconnected people in India and licensing for over-the-top players,” telecom operators body COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews told PTI. All this should have been included in the Trai proposals, he said, adding that the Net neutrality framework in India should be in accordance with the needs of the nation.
Trai has recommended a narrow definition of Net neutrality, he said. “In narrow definition, we agree with it in-principle. We are still studying the recommendations and will update our views as we will note key points.” Mathews said the recommendations to set-up a committee to decide on violation of rules is an unnecessary and bureaucratic move. Industry body representing Internet firms IAMAI lauded the recommendations, calling them progressive and pragmatic, which recognise the requirements of expansion of digital services in the country. The Internet in India, unlike possibly in the US or China, is going to be ‘free and open’ upholding the democratic principles, it said. “However, the government needs to act with speed on these recommendations. The Trai position on differential pricing had a sunset clause of 2 years which is fast coming to an end,” said the Internet and Mobile Association of India. Trai had in February last year barred telecom operators from imposing any sort of discrimination in content and services available on the Internet on the basis of pricing.
An Edelweiss report said that recommendations to exclude content delivery networks (CDNs) from Net neutrality restrictions will give integrated operators like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio an upper hand versus pure play connectivity providers. “We expect Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel to be key beneficiaries as they already have presence in content platforms,” the report said. Law Firm Khaitan & Co, Associate Partner, Harsh Walia said that all Internet of Things (IoT) services are not excluded from the principle of non-discrimination, but only those that fall within the ambit of specialised services to the satisfaction of the Department of Telecom. “The IoT players not providing critical services may find it onerous, if DoT accepts this recommendation,” he said. Trai has excluded CDNs from the purview of restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment and have targeted only Internet access service providers at the moment, he said. “While this provides a considerable relief to providers of CDN services, it puts TSPs in a precarious position, if this recommendation is accepted by DoT,” Walia said. Global think tank on issues of trade, competition and economic regulation CUTS said Trai’s recommendations are perfectly synced with consumer’s interest. “An open and free Internet has till date promoted inclusive growth and with these recommendations, it is envisaged to go a long way,” CUTS said.