Trai backs net neutrality; says internet services must be non-discriminatory

Recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Net neutrality are broadly in line with its February 2016 regulation prohibiting discriminatory tariffs for data services.

In a long-awaited report on net neutrality released on Tuesday, the telecom regulator said it was not in favour of any "discriminatory treatment" with data, including blocking, slowing or offering preferential speeds or treatment to any content.

Trai has also suggested changing licence terms of ISPs to explicitly restrict any form of discrimination in Internet access based on content.

The regulator's proposal to adhere to the tenets of net neutrality comes days after the US Federal Communication Commission said it would repeal the 2015 laws that aimed at upholding this broad principle of neutrality, giving consumers equal access to Web content, and barring broadband providers from blocking or slowing access to content, or charging consumers more for certain types of content. Based on the responses received, open house discussions were held in three cities.

This recommendation would restrict any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content because of telecom regulators entering into partnerships with third party platforms like Flipkart, Amazon or Netflix.

With that, India is one step closer to ensuring that net neutrality is enforced nationwide. TRAI previously prevented Facebook from pushing Free Basics, a zero-rated service that granted access to select sites and services on its platform for free, while operating as a gatekeeper that could decide which sites would be allowed in.

The much-awaited recommendations come after TRAI floated a consultation paper on the topic inviting views on net neutrality in January. "Nobody owns the internet".

Further, Trai wants telecom operators to declare their traffic management practices as and when deployed and the impact it may have had on the users. "The implementation of these regulations by the government of India would include formally issuing new executive orders to amend the telecom license conditions of service providers who have been licensed to operate in India by the government".

Though, he declined comment on when Net neutrality rules will be implemented, saying a final view will be decided by the Department of Telecommunications.

  • Essie Rivera