Trai backs net neutrality; says internet services must be non-discriminatory

Net Neutrality TRAI favours providing equal access to content

These recommendations make Net Neutrality - the principle that says that all bits on the internet should be treated equally - rules in India far more ironclad than in the USA, where the FCC moved last week to repeal rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or slowing websites, or charging a premium for "fast lanes" for things like high-quality streaming.

Trai had partially addressed the topic of Net neutrality in February 2016 when it ruled in favour of prohibiting discriminatory tariffs for data. "Nobody owns the internet".

"Internet should be kept open and free and not cannibalised".

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has upheld the principle of an open internet and recommended that internet service providers (ISPs) should be prohibited from discriminating between their web traffic by either blocking some apps, websites and services or by offering "fast lanes" to those who pay for the privilege. First, "such services are not usable or offered as a replacement for Internet access services"; and second, "the provision of such services should not be detrimental to the availability and overall quality of Internet access services". The paper sought views on ways to ensure non-discriminatory access to content on the internet and was followed up by an open house discussion in August involving activists and policy experts.

The regulator will come out with a consultation paper on over-the-top (OTT) players soon. CDNs enable telecom deliver content within their network without going through the public internet in order to create a content ecosystem to drive user traction. For example, any operator with own content platform, which is working only on its own network, will be able to charge differential pricing.

The regulator's much-awaited recommendations, issued on Tuesday, clearly state that blocking, degrading or granting preferential speed to one content over another (higher speeds to one kind of content against another) will be treated as discriminatory.

Further, Trai wants telecom operators to declare their traffic management practices as and when deployed and the impact it may have had on the users.

"The DoT is already well positioned to investigate any violation of licence conditions and it already has all the necessary enforcement mechanisms in place".

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