Telecom Commission says yes to net neutrality, clears new policy

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality

And with India's new net neutrality rules being touted as one of the strongest in the world, this victory casts a harsh light on the situation in the United States, where net neutrality is under serious threat.

The TRAI in 2016 rejected a plan - "Free Basics" - by Facebook to provide free access to certain services it controlled; however, the Indian government put a stop to the program over concerns that Facebook violated net neutrality by providing only select online content for free. They can not engage in practices such as blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to any content.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) on Wednesday approved net neutrality rules recommended by Trai that debar internet and telecom service providers from blocking or throttling content or services or granting greater speed access to a select few.

"Any deviations and violations of the rules of net neutrality - which come into effect nearly immediately - will be met with stiff penalties", a senior telecom official Aruna Sundarajan told media.

Part of the deliberations in the upcoming meeting were also on the hotly-debated topic of net neutrality, recommendations for which were made by the regulator and were approved as they were by the Telecom Commission. It's a huge potential market that companies are racing to tap, and Indian activists believe net neutrality is vital to ensure that hundreds of millions of Indians aren't exploited in the process.

As for the "non-level playing field" argument, these private telecom companies in question are huge multinationals, and comparing them to the PDO aggregators - who would retail internet to a thousand or more PDOs - is not valid to begin with, but more on that in a bit.

The Department of Telecom is likely to notify the guidelines soon.

Also, they can not create zero-rated platforms which offer only a certain category of services/websites as free.

Trai had, however, allowed fast lanes for specialised services that the DoT would define, and had permitted telcos to use traffic management practices to maintain quality of service.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has, however, recommended that the government review traffic prioritisation policies in the country for 5G-enabled devices and applications.

Relevant regulations would be amended to require all telecoms to disclose the Internet download speeds of their services, as well as the conditions under which certain services are provided, the commission said. This has ultimately led to a reversal of pro-Net Neutrality rules.

Moreover, Singh said the "horizontal separation of wholesale and retail" is a must if we are to aim for real net neutrality, as it would not allow integration of services with carriage, and actually create a level-playing field.

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