Trai Bars Operators From Discriminatory Practice On Net Access
In its much awaited recommendations on Net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) upheld the principles of Internet as an open platform
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Telecom regulator Trai today recommended prohibiting Internet service providers from making any discrimination in traffic while providing web access by either blocking or throttling some apps, websites and services or by offering 'fast lanes' to others.
In its much awaited recommendations on Net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) upheld the principles of Internet as an open platform.
Trai, which had last year barred discrimination in Net access through differential pricing, wants to "regulate the manner in which the current licensing requirement of unrestricted access to all content on the Internet is implemented and enforced", during pendency of a decision on its recommendations by the government.
If the proposals are accepted, the Internet service providers (ISPs) will not be able to block or throttle any web traffic, be it on computers, laptops or mobile phones, and offer fast lanes for content providers who pay for the privilege.
Trai recommendations come days after US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai proposed to dismantle the 2015 rules that require ISPs to treat all content travelling through their pipes equally.
Pai's proposal, which calls for reclassifying ISPs as information services instead of common carriers, is scheduled to be voted on by the full commission next month.
Trai's recommendations pave the way to end all sorts of discriminatory practices that telecom operators may exercise to differentiate among services and content over the Internet such as reducing its speed for accessing online video.
It has suggested changing licence terms of players to explicitly restrict any form of discrimination in Internet access based on content.
The regulator has cautioned that discriminatory treatment would include any form of restriction or interference including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds.
Trai also sought to bar services providers from inking pacts that have "effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment".
Its has however made a provision to exempt "specialised services" from its principles of discriminatory treatment, clarifying that relaxation would only be applicable to those services where optimising is necessary in order to meet specific quality of service requirements.
It has said that Internet of Things, with exception to critical IoT, would have to adhere to the restrictions on non discriminatory treatment.
"The authority recommends that the terms of various license agreements governing the provision of Internet services in India 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," Trai said.
The new rule will help in building uniformity in the terms of governing the provision of Internet services by different categories of licensees, it said.
The regulator has recommended that DoT may establish a multi-stakeholder body comprising telecom operators, ISPs, content providers, civil society organisations and consumer representatives to monitor and probe violations.
This body would be "responsible for developing technical standards pertaining to monitoring of traffic management practices and enforcement of principles on non-discriminatory treatment and making appropriate recommendations to the authority".
Trai is in favour of telecom operators declaring their traffic management practices "as and when deployed and the impact it may have had on the users".
It said: "Disclosure requirements shall also include information about specialised services, direct or indirect arrangements entered into by them."
Trai's consultation paper on Net neutrality was sought by the Department of Telecom (DoT) following the suggestion of a High Level Committee which proposed regulation of domestic calls on Internet-based apps by putting them at par with services offered by telecom operators.
That move came under immediate attack from various industry bodies and the civil society.
In February last year, Trai addressed a part of Net neutrality which was under its jurisdiction. It barred platforms like Facebook's Internet.Org and Airtel Zero which allowed free access to select websites to check 'gate-keeping' in cyber space. PTI PRS MBI ANZ SA