Will Trai’s Consultation Paper Clear Roadblocks In Net Neutrality?
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has released its most comprehensive consultation paper on much debated net neutrality issue. In the paper Trai stresses on the importance of a broader understanding of net neutrality among authorities and seeks to bring transparency in the way people access internet services. There have been a lot of debates on discussions on the topic at various forums since the emergence of the concept in 2014. Therefore, the question is will Trai be able to resolve the most critical aspects of net neutrality i. e. speed and access.
Net Neutrality seeks equal access to all Internet content, emphasizing the need for Internet service providers to not misuse existing Internet traffic management techniques to discriminate. In documents posted on its website, the Trai emphasized on identifying core principles and bringing transparency in the net neutrality framework.
“Transparency is one of the key enabling factors towards ensuring adherence to the nondiscrimination principles set forth in any net neutrality framework,” the consultation paper said.
“It is important to identify core principles of net neutrality for India and the types of practices that might be regarded as being in violation of these core principles”, the paper added.
Also Read: Net Neutrality In India And Why It Matters
Regarding the scope of transparency obligations, the paper has put thrust on price information and commercial terms and traffic management practices along with many other characteristics.
“In a net neutrality context, the scope of transparency obligations can range from obligations cast upon TSPs to disclose technical information on QoS (quality of services) parameters, to providing high-level information that is widely understandable and may enable consumers to make more informed decisions, and detect violations,” it added.
It sought views of the regulators on reasonable traffic management practices as well as regarding what would be the most effective legal/policy instrument for implementing a net neutrality framework in India.
“There can be two policy/regulatory approaches to achieve this end. First, a broad approach which involves defining what would constitute ‘reasonable’ traffic management practices. Further, this reference to reasonable management of ‘Internet traffic’ also brings into question the treatment of specialized/ managed services that are delivered using IP but do not serve the same functionality as the public Internet; or those that may require a level of quality that cannot be guaranteed on the Internet,” the telecom regulator added.
The principle of net neutrality is based on the premise of all Internet service providers treating all content, utilities and users as equal, without discrimination. The issue has left the telecom service providers (TSP) and the over-the-top (OTT) players in India at loggerheads.
The debate over net neutrality started way back in December 2014 when Bharti Airtel decided to charge users extra for Internet calls rolling back its plan after drawing widespread criticism. It then launched the Airtel Zero platform which provided free access to certain websites that paid for the service. The Department of Telecommunication has so far opposed platforms such as Facebook’s Internet.org and Airtel zero that allow access to certain websites without mobile data charges.
Trai has sought stakeholders view by February 15, and counter-comments by February 28.
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