Telecom Commission Supports Trai Regulation On Net Neutrality

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In a move to ensure free internet in India, the government has accepted and approved the principle of net neutrality.

Net neutrality has become a bigger issue across the world as social media giants and mobile and internet providers seek greater control on delivery of content and services to customers. Once, net neutrality comes into play, they cannot degrade, slow down or grant preferential speeds to any website or online service.

The decision to approve the new net neutrality rules was made by the Telecom Commission-the highest decision-making body in the DoT.

"The Telecom Commission (TC) today approved net neutrality as recommended by Trai expect some critical services will be kept out of its purview", Telecom Commission Chairman Aruna Sundararajan told reporters here.

The Commission, though, has excluded some critical services like autonomous vehicles and telemedicine, which need faster speeds.

The TC recommendations are culmination of a debate over net neutrality that started in India two years back in response to Facebook offering free Internet for a pre-selected service websites in tie-up with telecom companies. 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.

"Any deviations and violations of the rules of net neutrality-which will come into effect nearly immediately-will be met with stiff penalties, including possible cancellation of licence", she added.

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Specialised services, as per reports, are only exempt from Net Neutrality rules if "such services are not usable or offered as a replacement for Internet Access Services".

The Department of Telecom is likely to notify the guidelines soon.

In fact, we're finding numerous Lite apps are better than their big brothers and sisters, suggesting that a solution aimed at catering for "the next billion" could really be on to something. Providers are also prohibited from providing zero-rated content. "Therefore, India must have ease of doing business and enabling policy environment", she said.

Critical applications of the Internet such as remote surgery and self-driving cars are among those which has been kept outside the provisions of Net Neutrality. Mark Zuckerberg defended Free basics in a column in Times Of India, "Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic internet services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false claims - even if that means leaving behind a billion people." .

The rules grant exceptions to some services, including internet calling and online television provided by telecom companies.

While we support Net Neutrality norms, a light touch regulatory approach should be adopted so that innovation is not hampered by the net neutrality rules.

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

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