TRAI bats for net neutrality, says internet services should be non-discriminatory

AS PART OF ITS RECOMMENDATIONS, TRAI ALSO SUGGESTED THE GOVERNMENT SET UP A BODY TO MONITOR ACTIVITIES.
Net neutrality was given a boost on Tuesday, when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) brought out its much-awaited recommendations.

TRAI maintained that internet services should be non-discriminatory. It also suggested the government set up a body to monitor activities.

“The service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment,” a release issued by the sector regulator said.

It also said the scope of the proposed principles on non-discriminatory treatment apply specifically to ‘Internet Access Services’, which are generally available to the public.

The TRAI said Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content. 

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

“The Telecom Service Providers (TSP) shall be required to declare their Traffic Management Practices, as and when deployed and the impact it may have had on the users. The disclosure requirements shall also include information about specialised services, direct or indirect arrangements entered by them,” the regulator recommended.

The TSPs and the over-the-top (OTT) players have locked horns over the issue of net neutrality. The regulator was debating the issue for almost two years now. Over-the-top services refer to applications or services that is delivered over the internet, and does not involve an operator. WhatsApp and Skype are examples of OTT services.

The regulator recommended that for monitoring and enforcement, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) may establish a multi-stakeholder body with framework for collaborative mechanism among the stakeholders. 

The TRAI said for monitoring and investigation of violations, a collaborative mechanism has been recommended to be established in the form of a multi-stakeholder body comprising members representing different categories of TSPs and Internet Service Providers, large and small content providers, representative from research and academia, civil society organisations and consumer representatives.

TRAI, in its 55-page recommendation, said that the terms of various license agreements governing the provision of Internet services in India be amended. They said that these be amended in order to incorporate the principles of non-discriminatory treatment of content by Internet Access Services along with the appropriate exclusions and exceptions.

Talking about Internet of Things (IoT), the TRAI recommended that the IoT, as a class of services, should not be specifically excluded from the scope of the restrictions on nondiscriminatory treatment.

“Those critical IoT services, which may be identified by DoT as satisfying the definition of specialised services, would be automatically excluded,” it added.

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