New Delhi: The telecom regulator will submit comprehensive recommendations on Net neutrality to the government by June, chairman R.S. Sharma said.
Since the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has already tackled the tariff aspect of Net neutrality by prohibiting differential tariff services such as Airtel Zero and Facebook Inc.’s Free Basics, the next set of recommendations will be about non-tariff aspects such as selective speeding up or throttling of access to websites or services.
“We will give the government advice depending on the consultations. We should be able to formulate the issues in another two weeks’ time. Thereafter, it will take two months for our recommendations to go to the government," Sharma said.
“There are four to five dimensions of Net neutrality. One is with reference to origin, destination, application. That we have tackled with the tariff perspective. There are other aspects such as you cannot provide a fast lane, throttling... These are aspects which do not have revenue or tariff angle. So, that we will have to bring up through consultations," Sharma said, adding that there was no need to revisit the direction on Free Basics and differential tariffs for content on the Internet.
Trai will issue a new consultation paper in the next two weeks, which will supersede the existing consultation process for over-the-top services (OTT) that was issued by previous Trai chairman Rahul Khullar.
OTT refers to services and applications that run on telecom networks, but provide the same services. Telecom firms are asking the government to regulate services such as Skype and WhatsApp in the same way telecom operators are regulated for similar services, meaning OTT providers should also have to adhere to that licensing and security rules as telecom firms.
The Economic Times reported on Thursday that the government has asked Trai to submit its recommendations on Net neutrality as it moves towards framing a policy on the issue.
The final recommendations of the regulator will then go to an internal committee of the department of telecommunications, which will then go to the Telecom Commission and the cabinet for approval.
As reported by Mint in May last year, an internal committee of the telecom department, formed to look into the issue from a technical standpoint, had recommended barring zero-rating plans as well as throttling or prioritization of Internet traffic. It had also suggested a new law incorporating principles of Net neutrality to replace the Indian Telegraph Act.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Trai’s American counterpart, has barred throttling or fast-laning of Internet speeds, but has allowed Free Basics-like zero-rating plans on a case-to-case basis.
Separately, the Trai chairman also said that the regulator would continue to encourage forbearance on tariffs, or allow operators to set prices. “We are not going to regulate tariffs. We will intervene when we think there is time to intervene. Till that time, market forces will have their play," Sharma said.