Big win for netizens as TRAI backs 'open & free' internet, prohibits discrimination


Federal Communications Commission, the USA regulator, recently said that it plans to roll back net neutrality rules that were adopted in America in 2015.

The TRAI said for monitoring and investigation of violations, a collaborative mechanism has been recommended to be established in the form of a multi-stakeholder body comprising members representing different categories of TSPs and Internet Service Providers, large and small content providers, representative from research and academia, civil society organisations and consumer representatives.

The US regulatory agency, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Republican Ajit Pai, will vote at a 14 December meeting on a plan to repeal rules on net neutrality.

It has also defined Internet access services to remove any ambiguity.

As part of its recommendations, TRAI also suggested the government set up a body to monitor activities. So essentially what we are saying is keeping these overarching principles in mind, we have given these recommendations to ensure internet remains an open and free platform in our country. Net neutrality is core to the future of India's digital economy. The most important of the questions it laid out was if telecom service providers should have the ability to price data differentially based just on the content it was providing. "We believe that the recommendations made by TRAI should be evaluated and taken up for implementation in a speedy manner".

The first being the recommendation sent to the Department of Telecom, which requires subsequent action by both the department as well as relevant ministry to make binding rules to protect Net Neutrality. The regulator was debating the issue for nearly two years now.

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The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), however, expressed disappointment that the authority did not adopt the industry recommendation to have a wider approach to Net Neutrality.

The ruling, however, doesn't come without exemptions.

They said TRAI did not address the issues related to connecting the unconnected in India and licensing of apps or websites providing calls and messaging services such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and Google Duo. He should have the freedom to exercise traffic management practices. That they should be able to manage this traffic. In addition, telcos also assure that they will disclose any instances of network management to relevant authorities or the public, as required.

"Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content", TRAI says.

IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had, at that point of time, pledged his support for a non-discriminatory internet. After major protests from net neutrality activists, Facebook's "Free Basics" and Airtel Zero were banned by the regulator. The recent recommendations from TRAI will definitely contribute towards formalising a much-needed official policy on the issue of net neutrality.