To check if telecom operators are complying with net neutrality rules, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended the formation of a multi-stakeholder body, to be established by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that will monitor the services.
The telcos will be required to inform DoT as well as the multi-stakeholder body (MSB) about the traffic management practices (TMPs) adopted by them to manage their networks and only after approval, the TMPs can be deployed.
To ensure that telecom networks are managed within net neutrality rules, the companies will be required to submit a detailed technical description and how it will impact different services of users.
It must be mentioned that TMPs are deployed by operators to manage traffic on their networks but there are concerns also on the potential for discriminatory treatment of online traffic by the entities that control access to the internet.
The regulator had released its recommendations on net neutrality in November 2017 which barred discrimination in internet access based on content. The discrimination of content includes practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.
The government had accepted most of the recommendations of Trai, and on July 31, 2018, issued principle directives on net neutrality. Further, DoT amended licence conditions for service providers and introduced relevant requirements to conform to the principles of net neutrality.
Trai in its recommendations had said the telcos should define their TMPs but DoT differed with regulator and instead said it will define the TMPs. For this, it sought the recommendations of Trai. The DoT also asked Trai to define the role and composition of a multi-stakeholder body that will monitor net neutrality rules.
In its recommendations on the issue, Trai said DoT may define the process of creation and maintenance of a repository and reasonable TMPs. The internet access providers should submit to DoT and MSB about the TMPs deployed by them.
The MSB will comprise telcos, internet service providers, content providers, academia, technical community, civil society, consumers and government. The body will investigate complaints regarding the violation of net neutrality as well as submit reports to DoT. It will also recommend technical standards on matters on best practices to be adopted for TMPs.
Globally, there have been widespread concerns on the potential for discriminatory treatment of online traffic by the entities that control access to the internet. These concerns regarding non-discriminatory access have become the centre of a global policy debate, often referred to as the debate on ‘net neutrality’. Trai had earlier barred platforms like Facebook’s Internet.Org and Airtel Zero which allowed free access to select websites, to check ‘gate-keeping’ in cyberspace.