Telecom regulator Trai today extended the last date for comments on the contentious Net neutrality by a month to March 15. Telecom operators and Internet-based companies have been at loggerheads on the issue which is linked to providing preferential access to select customers.
“On request from the stakeholders, the last date for receipt of written comments, if any, from the stakeholders has been extended up to March 15, 2017, and counter comments by March 22, 2017,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said in a statement.
Earlier, the last date for comments was February 15 and counter comments February 28. The regulator has already conducted the first round of consultation to understand key issues that need to be looked at for framing rules around Net neutrality. The ongoing consultation process was initiated pursuant to reference from the Department of Telecom.
The regulator already conducted pre-consultation on the subject in mid-2016 where it discussed issues such as the definition of Net neutrality, scope of traffic management practices, importance of unrestricted access and transparency, need for preserving customer privacy and national security.
A panel set up under DoT has proposed regulation of domestic calls on Internet-based apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber by putting them at par with services offered by telecom operators. The recommendation of the panel came under immediate attack from the public and industry bodies.
The DoT committee opposed platforms like Facebook’s Internet.org that allows access to certain websites without mobile data charges while suggesting that similar plans by Bharti Airtel be allowed with prior clearance from Trai.
However, the committee suggested liberal approach to app-based international calls. The government has said it will decide on a framework for Net neutrality after getting recommendations of Trai on the subject. Though their is no standard definition of Net neutrality, certain sections have described it as equal treatment be accorded to all Internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to content or service providers such as telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.
Trai has already firmed up regulation on discriminating content on the basis of tariff by barring platforms zero rating platforms. The consultation paper on discriminatory tariff, which closed in January 2016, was the debated the most, which attracted comments from over 24 lakh people.