Net neutrality directions to benefit RJio, Bharti

Audrey Hill
November 30, 2017

The Trai's support for net neutrality came at a time when a debate is raging over US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai's recent proposal to dismantle the 2015 rules, which require ISPs (internet service providers) to treat all content travelling through their pipes equally.

With this, TRAI has effectively drawn a red line and shunned calls from telecom operators for creating fast and slow lanes on the internet depending on the data and service you wish to use.

The move came after an extended campaign by internet activists against Facebook's free basics platform.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has backed the basic principles of an open and free internet in its recommendations on Net Neutrality released on Tuesday.

The latest recommendations go one step further. While the regulator has not laid down a clear definition of specialised services, it said the DoT may identify these services, and the status should only be given if a service follows two broad principles.

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Releasing its recommendations on "net neutrality", TRAI has explicitly stated that internet service providers can not in any form discriminate with content by putting restrictions on them - including blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to certain content.

This is at odds with the USA regulator, which seems to be moving towards dismantling rules on net neutrality. The TRAI has also suggested the creation of a committee that includes representatives of internet service providers, consumer rights groups, and content makers to check Net Neutrality violations in India. 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.

However, an official with one of the telecom companies, on condition of anonymity, said the CDN exemption would be taken care of by the regulator's recommendation that the service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract "that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment". This means that cellular service providers who have their own content platform and are offering these services on their own network (content delivery networks) can charge differential pricing.

Making an exception for specialized services, the regulator said such services could be provided as long as the service provider wasn't resorting to them as a replacement for "Internet Access Services' that are at the heart of net neutrality".

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's headquarters in New Delhi.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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