TRAI releases recommendations on net neutrality

Trai chairman R.S. Sharma. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India will issue its much-awaited recommendations on net neutrality today

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has finally released its recommendations on net neutrality.

They said TRAI did not address the issues related to connecting the unconnected in India and licensing of apps or websites providing calls and messaging services such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and Google Duo.

With the possibility of the USA dismantling its net-neutrality regulations, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out with heightened standards of enforcing the principles of net-neutrality.

TRAI has excluded CDNs from the purview of restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment and have targeted only Internet access service providers at the moment, he said.

The US regulator, Federal Communications Commission, has said recently that it plans to roll back the "Net neutrality" rules the were adopted in America in 2015.

It has also defined Internet access services to remove any ambiguity.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), however, expressed disappointment that the authority did not adopt the industry recommendation to have a wider approach to Net Neutrality.

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This comes as welcome news at a time when in United States the regulatory agency for that country, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), intends to repeal net neutrality rules, that were adopted in 2015, to allow telecom companies to regulate and charge for access to websites. Additionally, the agency has suggested the creation of a committee consisting of representatives of ISPs, content providers, and consumer groups to police net neutrality violations across the country. 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. These recommendations are the result of a long, multistage consultation process.

It also said that Department of Telecommunications (DoT) would identify the specialised services.

"We expect Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel to be key beneficiaries as they already have presence in content platforms", the report said.

"The Internet Access Service Providers may take reasonable measurement for traffic management, provided the same are proportionate, transient and transparent".

These rules are to be applicable to "internet access services", which are generally available to the public, said Trai. The most important of the questions it laid out was if telecom service providers should have the ability to price data differentially based just on the content it was providing.

"Inclusion of IoT remains a huge concern, and we will need to look closely at this".

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