Net Neutrality

Context:

The Telecom Commission has approved the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on net neutrality

What is net neutrality?

  • Net neutrality is the basic principle of an open Internet that does not allow for content discrimination by ISPs.
  • In India, the debate on net neutrality picked up speed after Facebook launched the Free Basics program in December 2015.

Key recommendations of the TRAI are given below:

  1. Discriminatory treatment of content is prohibited: 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.
    • However, some specialised and emerging services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) may be exempt from the non-discriminatory principles, but these cannot be at the cost of the overall quality of Internet access.
  1. 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.
  2. International treaties, court orders, government order on blocking certain sites is exempt from these guidelines.
  • It also calls for keeping Internet of Things (IoT) within purview of non-discrimination restriction with the exception of critical services.
  1. Setting up Multi-stakeholder body:Telecom and ISPs should deploy “reasonable” traffic management practices from time to time. It calls for setting up multi-stakeholders body to monitor and investigate whether ISPs are adhering to rules.

Significance:

  1. Protect small entrepreneurs: Net neutrality protects small entrepreneurs from unfair competition with big internet giants.
  2. Free Internet:It will ensure open and free Internet in India.
  3. Strong net neutrality regulations:India will now have among the strongest net neutrality regulations.
  4. Democratize internet:Democratize internet and under grid its growth from a networked system of computers that enabled e-commerce.
  5. Equality of consumer: It is a step promotes equality of consumer and accentuate free and open internet
  6. Reduced tariffs:Reduced tariffs for accessing or proving emergency services or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
  7. Good for startups: Net Neutrality is extremely important for small business owners and start- who can launch their businesses online, advertise the products and sell them openly, without any discrimination.
  8. Job creation:It is essential for innovation and creating job opportunities. Big companies like Google, Twitter and several others are born out of net neutrality.
  9. Increasing Internet penetration: With increasing Internet penetration in India, net neutrality is very essential for freedom of speech so that one can voice their opinion without the fear of being blocked or banned.

Net neutrality in America:

  • Net neutrality has been subject of debate in the US for many years now.
  • In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved rules that prohibit manipulation of traffic by cable and phone companies.
  • The net neutrality rules gave the FCC power to go after companies for business practices that weren’t explicitly banned as well.
  • Recently, the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality regulations.
  • It was done to promote transparency by eliminating unnecessary requirements.
  • The repeal will also allow ISPs and broadband providers to invest in new technology.

Way ahead:

  • TRAI’s consultation paper on net neutrality is a positive welcome. The success of the paper will depend on proper planning for implementation by the government.
  • DoT Committee has recommended the following suggestions:
  • Core principles of Net Neutrality must be made part of License conditions and the Licensor may issue guidelines from time to time as learning process matures.
  • A cell in the DoT headquarters may be set up to deal with net neutrality cases.
  • Tariff shall be regulated by TRAI as at present.
  • Net neutrality issues arising out of traffic management would have reporting and auditing requirements, which may be performed and enforced by DoT
  • QoS issues fall within the jurisdiction of TRAI.
  • Reporting related to transparency requirements will need to be dealt with by TRAI.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email