The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has released its final report on Net Neutrality. The report is available on the DoT website.
The Net Neutrality Committee has recommended that “user rights on the Internet need to be ensured so that Telecom Service Providers/Internet Service Providers (TSPs/ISPs) do not restrict the ability of the user to send, receive, display, use, post any legal content, application or service on the Internet, or restrict any kind of lawful Internet activity or use.”
Watch video on what Net Neutrality report says: (App users click here)
Even so, the committee has recommended that the primary goals of public policy in the context of Net Neutrality should be directed towards achievement of developmental aims of the country by facilitating “Affordable Broadband”, “Quality Broadband” and “Universal Broadband” for its citizens.
Where OTT services like WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger are concerned, the recommendations of the committee say that such application services should be actively encouraged and that regulatory norms are not required for messaging OTTs.
In the case of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) OTT communication services, the government report says that there is already a “regulatory arbitrage” in existence and that these services are bypassing “the existing licensing and regulatory regime” and that it “creating a non-level playing field between TSPs and OTT providers both competing for the same service provision.”
The report adds that this particular regulations for VoIP services are under deliberation in other countries as well and that even European Commission has argued for a need to “review telecom rules” in order to ensure a “level playing field. The report goes on to note that the current pace of VoIP has the potential of “disrupting existing telecom revenue models,” and that “this may decelerate the pace of telecom infrastructure expansion.” The report adds that this would disrupt investment in telecom sector which is much needed in order to increase broadband reach, speeds, bandwidth capacity, etc.
The report says that public policy needs to manage the transition from voice to date-centric networks and that it requires as a “graduated and calibrated public policy” response to bring about a level playing field. Where International VoIP calls are concerned, (this would include Skype calls made on the phone to your cousins in the US or UK), the report calls for a liberal approach.
But where domestic calls provided by both TSPs and OTTs is concerned, the government report says they may be “treated similarly from a regulatory angle for the present.”
“The nature of regulatory similarity, the calibration of regulatory response and its phasing can be appropriately determined after public consultations and TRAI’s recommendations to this effect,” it goes on to add. What this implies is that local calls even those made under OTTs like WhatsApp or Skype could come under regulation.
The report while it goes on to support Net Neutrality’s core principle says that “Legitimate traffic management practices may be allowed.” It cautions that these “practices should be ‘tested’ against the core principles of net neutrality.”
It also says that “tariff plans offered by TSPs/ISPs must conform to the principles of net neutrality set forth in guidelines issued by the Government as Licensor” and that TRAI will examine the plans as well.
In addition to this at the time of granting license, the government will include a clause that the licensee to follow the core principles of Net Neutrality “in the license conditions of TSP/ISPs.” The report adds that “the guidelines can describe the principles and conditions of net neutrality in detail and provide applicable criteria to test any violation of the principles of net neutrality.”
Watch our coverage of Net Neutrality below: (App users click here to see videos)