Net Neutrality Gets Telecom Commission's Nod, New Telecom Policy Cleared

Yolanda Curtis
July 14, 2018

And with India's new net neutrality rules being touted as one of the strongest in the world, this victory casts a harsh light on the situation in the United States, where net neutrality is under serious threat. Telcos can not discriminate against Internet content and services by blocking, throttling or granting them higher speed access. As a result, slowing down the internet speed, blocking, or offering paid prioritization is no longer considered illegal for the ISPs.

Under this service providers will be prohibited from discriminating against Internet services and content by throttling, blocking or granting them higher speed access.

The draft Telecom policy, however, keeps certain Internet of Things services such as autonomous vehicles and digital healthcare outside the ambit of these rules. A committee will look into the possible exceptions for "critical services" which will also be defined keeping in view the basic tenets of net neutrality.

TRAI had issued its recommendations on net neutrality in India in November 2017 asserting that there should be no intrusion of equal internet access to everyone, based on just the content. TRAI, in its recommendations, has duly noted that internet is an open platform and as such internet services must be non-discriminatory. TRAI head RS Sharma compared these services to ambulances, saying that they can legally disobey traffic rules or enjoy priority status to maintain service quality.

In case of violation of the core principles of net neutrality, the penalty would consist of a two-stage process of review and appeal. Airtel Zero was a platform through which Airtel would have offered users free access to certain mobile applications and services from companies who had signed up with Airtel. The most visible casualty was Facebook's Free Basics service, which offered Indians free access to a limited number of websites.

"The inter-ministerial telecom commission, which met on Wednesday, has given a go-ahead to net neutrality in the country". The licences of telecom players/internet service providers will be amended to incorporate these norms, a senior DoT official said.

To ensure that this investment comes into the telecom sector, the government will bring down regulatory compliances for ease of doing business, Sundararajan said, adding that they will make the market fundamentally attractive to investors.

But telecom companies believe that the rules could hamper innovation.

MediaNama's Aroon Deep discussing the new Net Neutrality policies.

The Senate is meeting to revive net neutrality, but chances are Trump Republicans will back the FCC and net neutrality will die.

Moreover, Singh said the "horizontal separation of wholesale and retail" is a must if we are to aim for real net neutrality, as it would not allow integration of services with carriage, and actually create a level-playing field.

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