TRAI bats for net neutrality, says internet services should be non-discriminatory

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

The telecom operators 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, said Trai.

TRAI has moved to prevent big Internet service providers from unlimited power in deciding what Web content customers can get and at what price.

"The DoT is already well positioned to investigate any violation of licence conditions and it already has all the necessary enforcement mechanisms in place, hence such a heavy-handed approach is not necessary, as is, now being proposed by TRAI", said Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI.

"In line with its previous stand, TRAI has upheld the idea of a free and open internet". Net neutrality is core to the future of India's digital economy.

Global think tank on issues of trade, competition and economic regulation CUTS said TRAI's recommendations are perfectly synced with consumers interest.

However, Trai has allowed certain exemptions including specialised services and the time-critical IoT services (like autonomous cars). In 2015, TRAI had come out with a consultation paper over the regulatory framework for over-the-top services (OTT).

Later in August, it held an open house discussion on the topic with representatives from the telecom sector, including Internet service providers, consulting firms, policy experts and activists.

"We will be bringing out Net neutrality recommendations tomorrow. So, whatever rules that we come up with will be in harmony with our developmental objectives and our country's interests".

"Specialised services equally state that exception of specialised services should not utilised to circumvent overall implementation of net neutrality". He should have the freedom to exercise traffic management practices.

However, telecom companies want to be able to manage some traffic on their networks to avoid network congestion without throttling services which compete with their own, thus assuaging the main fear of net neutrality proponents. These are specialized things because they are not using public internet.

TRAI also says that IoT services are not excluded from the scope of the restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment. It barred platforms like Facebook's Internet.Org and Airtel Zero which allowed free access to select websites to check "gate-keeping" in cyberspace. He explained, "India is a democracy; we don't believe in one gate". Thereafter, they will have to make changes in the license agreements and make net neutrality a part of them.

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