The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI ) has upheld the basic principles of an open and free internet in its recommendations on net neutrality.
Net neutrality means that telecom service providers must treat all internet traffic equally, without any regard to the type, origin or destination of the content or the means of its transmission. Proponents of net neutrality hold that all traffic on internet should be treated equally i.e. service providers should allow access to all content without favouring any particular product or website.
Prohibits Discrimination: It upholds basic principle of net neutrality by keeping Internet open and prohibits any Internet service providers (ISPs) from discrimination on basis of content by either blocking, throttling or fast-laning any websites, apps or web services.
Protection of rights of citizens: The internet use should be facilitated in such manner that it advances free speech rights of citizens, by ensuring plurality and diversity of views, opinions and ideas. It also restrains ISPs from entering into pacts with any person which discriminates on content, protocol or user equipment.
Exemptions: It excludes specialised services and content delivery networks (CDNs) from scope of any rules on net neutrality. It does not define specialised services and leaves it to DoT to identify these services. It also calls for keeping Internet of Things (IoT) within purview of non-discriminatory restriction with the exception of critical services.
It exempt CDNs from the scope of net neutrality rules arguing that CDNs add efficiency to network by reducing latency, mitigating congestion and freeing up network capacity for other purposes. CDNs are layer in Internet networks which are outside public Internet and are used by content generators to store their data at suitable geographical locations.
Setting up Multi-stakeholder body: Telecom and ISPs should deploy “reasonable” traffic management practices from time to time. It calls for setting up multi-stakeholder body to monitor and investigate whether ISPs are adhering to rules.
The body will be led by industry and comprise members representing different telecom and ISPs, large and small content providers, representatives from research, academia, civil society organisations and consumer bodies.
TRAI’s recommendations follow consultation process that lasted for 1 year, after Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sought TRAI’s views on issue in March 2016 to finalise a viewpoint on net neutrality. These recommendations will now be vetted by DoT and after its approval, changes with effect to licence agreements of telecom firms will be made to accommodate net neutrality. TRAI’s proposal to adhere net neutrality comes days after US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had announced repealing of 2015 laws that aimed at upholding this broad principle of net neutrality.