Net Neutrality: TRAI favours providing equal access to content
The regulatory body has voted in favour of providing equal access to all subscribers of the internet. It said that ISPs can't discriminate on content. Read its salient features right here.
- TRAI released recommendations on net neutrality in India.
- DoT will now consider these recommendations for implementation.
- ISPs cannot discriminate on internet speeds while providing content .
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday released its recommendations on Net Neutrality. The regulatory body has voted in favour of providing equal access to all subscribers of the internet.
“Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content,” TRAI said.
“The Authority recommends that the terms of various license agreements governing the provision of Internet services in India (UL, VNO license, UASL and CMTS) be amended in order to incorporate the principles of non-discriminatory treatment of content by Internet Access Services along with the appropriate exclusions and exceptions,” TRAI added.
Concerns regarding non-discriminatory access to the internet are referred to as the debate on network or net neutrality.
The issue of net neutrality in India first surfaced in 2015 as companies like Facebook tied up with telecom operator Reliance Communications which would enable the operator to provide access to over 30 different websites, without any charge on mobile data.
Department of Telecommunications then wrote a letter to try TRAI in March 2016 asking for its recommendations on the subject.
Salient features of TRAI’s recommendations were listed as follows:
a) The licensing terms should be amplified to provide explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in Internet access based on the content being accessed, the protocols being used or the user equipment being deployed. Content would include all content, applications, services and any other data, including its end-point information that can be accessed or transmitted over the Internet
b) The “discriminatory treatment” in the context of treatment of content would include any form of discrimination, restriction or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.
c) The service providers 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.
d) The scope of the proposed principles on non-discriminatory treatment apply specifically to “Internet Access Services”, which are generally available to the public.
e) In order to remove any ambiguity, Internet Access Services have been defined.
f) Specialised services, i.e. services other than Internet Access Services, which are optimised for specific content, protocols or user equipment. and where the optimisation is necessary in order to meet specific quality of‘ service requirements shall be exempted from the principles of discriminatory treatment.
g) DoT may identify specialised services. However, specialised services may be offered by the service provider only if they are not usable (or offered) as a replacement for Internet Access Services; and the provision of such services is not detrimental to the availability and overall quality of Internet Access Services.
h) Internet of Things (IoT), as a class of services, are not excluded from the scope of the restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment. However, critical IoT services, which may be identified by DoT, and which satisfy the definition of specialised services, would be automatically exclude.
i) CDNs which enable a TSP to deliver content within its network without going through public Internet are exempted from the scope of any restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment.
j) The IASPs may take reasonable measurements for traffic management, provided the same are proportionate, transient and transparent.
k) TSPs shall be required to declare the Traffic Management Practices (TMP), as and when deployed and the impact it may have had on the users.
l) For monitoring and investigation of violations, a collaborative mechanism has been recommended to be established in the form of a multi-stakeholder body comprising members representing different categories of TSPs and ISPs, large and small content providers, representatives from research and academia, civil society organisations and consumer representatives.
m) These recommendations are being made without prejudice to the powers and functions conferred upon the Authority as per TRAI Act, 1997. Therefore, pending the consideration of these recommendations, the Authority may regulate the manner in which the current licensing requirement of unrestricted access to all content on the internet is implemented and enforced. The Authority may also frame regulations or take other measures, as and when deemed necessary.
DoT will now consider these recommendations for implementation in the telecom industry.
Welcoming the TRAI’s recommendation, NASSCOM said, "Net neutrality is core to the future of the India’s digital economy. The recommendations are completely consistent with the basic construct of NASSCOM recommendations calling for unrestrained and unimpeded access to all lawful content and services subject to national regulations related to security and privacy, and preventing service providers leveraging their exclusive control over access infrastructure to speed up, slow down or selectively enable or prevent access to certain content."
The statement further said that TRAI’s recommendations will promote equitable access to the internet for every citizen. "It would ensure a level playing field for IT and OTT services providers to innovate and customize in India and provide a constantly expanding range of new services relevant to every individual," it added.