Trai to issue suggestions on net neutrality today
New Delhi: After over one year of consultations and heated debate, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will issue its much-awaited recommendations on net neutrality.
“We will issue the recommendations on net neutrality tomorrow,” Trai chairman R.S. Sharma told reporters on Monday.
Net neutrality requires telecom service providers to treat all internet traffic equally, without regard for the type, origin, or destination of the content or the means of its transmission.
The issue has been debated upon globally as well as in India, with activists arguing the case for an open internet without any restrictions on speed.
The recommendations that the regulator releases on Tuesday will assume significance, especially at a time when the US plans to repeal its existing rules on net neutrality, which will essentially allow telecom companies in the US to restrict broadband speeds and favour their own services if they want.
The US regulatory agency, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Republican Ajit Pai, will vote at a 14 December meeting on his plan to repeal rules on net neutrality.
Existing rules in the US bar internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing down access to content or charging consumers more for certain types of content.
Trai had in January floated a consultation paper on the topic, seeking views on issues such as how to ensure non-discriminatory access to content on internet, among others.
This was followed up by an open house discussion in August which saw participation by representatives from telecom and ISPs, consulting firms, activists, and policy experts.
The recommendations are expected to include the definition of what constitutes reasonable traffic management practices by ISPs. A likely negative list of non-reasonable traffic management practices could also emerge. “India must evolve a unique approach to net neutrality. The key requirement is that our approach to net neutrality should be evidence-based,” Mahesh Uppal, director at communications consulting firm ComFirst India, said.
“While we have not seen any major breaches of net neutrality rules as of now, it does not mean we should not address the problem of future misuse,” he said.
Uppal said rules must also be flexible and allow exceptions under some circumstances.
Trai, which has so far adopted a pro-net neutrality stand, is expected to stick to its stand of ensuring a free and open internet for all.
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