Net Neutrality Gets Telecom Commission's Nod, New Telecom Policy Cleared

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan

India has adopted recommendations strongly backing net neutrality that experts say could be the "strongest" in the world. Telcos can not discriminate against Internet content and services by blocking, throttling or granting them higher speed access. All data on the internet is equal, and ISPs can not engage in practices like "blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content".

India has joined the club of nations that guarantee non-discriminatory access to the Internet, with the Telecom Commission on Wednesday accepting Trai's suggestions on net neutrality.

She, however, added that certain emerging and critical services will be kept out of the purview of these norms. "Its core principles will be followed except in the case of critical services where you need to prioritise certain kinds of traffic".

TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years. They object that it would lead to the creation of a "non-level playing field" - since the aggregators, who would sell the bandwidth to a thousand or more PDOs, would not be required to pay license fee, spectrum usage charges, nor would they be required to share the revenue with the government. Internet service providers (ISP) often tend to discriminate against websites that do not invest much in them or give them good traffic.

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India has reportedly approved net neutrality rules.

No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the goal of evading the prohibition in this regulation. "This should come into force nearly immediately", said telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan. Mission critical applications or services like remote surgery and autonomous cars has been kept out of the new rule. With India taking up the cause seriously, it looks like free and open Internet is here to stay.

The government on May 1had released the draft National Telecom Policy 2018 to reform the licencing and regulatory regime and promote the ease of doing business. The regulatory body will monitor traffic and any new tariff will be treated as a violation to principles of net neutrality. In May, the US Senate voted in favour of keeping open-internet rules as it attempts to overturn regulator Federal Communications Commission's decision to repeal net neutrality rules, something seen as hard in view of challenges at the House of Representatives or the White House. This "multi-provider, inter-operable, collaborative model increases the overall innovation in the system, dismantles monopolies and encourages passing of benefits to end user", the telecom regulator has said.

The Senate is meeting to revive net neutrality, but chances are Trump Republicans will back the FCC and net neutrality will die.

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