November 28, 2017 9:05:38 pm
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has finally released its recommendations to ensure that Internet in India continues to be open and is protected from any discrimination. The TRAI has recommended that all licenced telecom service providers are bound to follow the “core principles” of net neutrality and called for setting up a “cell in the DoT headquarters” to deal with violations. While underlining that it was against any discriminatory treatment of data, the regulator, however, said “legitimate traffic management practices may be allowed subject to the core principles”. It wanted that service providers to offer “adequate disclosure to users about traffic management policies and tools” but refrain from application-specific control.
Any violation of the core principles of net neutrality would involve a two-stage process of review and appeal “to ensure that decisions are objective, transparent and just”. While the TRAI will continue to regulate traffic, any new tariff would be “tested against” the principles of Net Neutrality, the report said.
The report accepts that it is going to be tough to find a solution when it comes to VoIP OTT communication services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. It accepted that such services “bypass the existing licensing and regulatory regime creating a non-level playing field between TSPs and OTT providers” and hence should be open for arbitrage. While tending towards a “liberal approach” as far as international calling services we concerned, the TRAI said in case of domestic calls “the calibration of regulatory response and its phasing can be appropriately determined after public consultations and TRAI’s recommendations to this effect”. It said that in case of OTT application services, “there is no case for prescribing regulatory oversight similar to conventional communication services”.
Based on its dialogue with all stakeholders, the TRAI has also recommended the setting up of a “collaborative mechanism” to study issues related to “traffic management, implementation of exceptions, implementation of transparency measures and other relevant aspects”. This will be in the form of a “multi-stakeholder body comprising members representing different categories of TSPs and ISPs, large and small content providers, representatives from research and academia, civil society organisations and consumer representatives”. The terms, conditions and governance structure of this not-for-profit body would be recommended by TRAI once this recommendation is accepted by the government in principle.
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