New Delhi, Nov 28: Telecom sector regulator Trai has recommended upholding the basic principle of keeping internet free and not allowing any discrimination based on content. However, the regulator has proposed to exempt specialised services, which are optimised for specific content and are not internet services. Department of Telecommunications (DoT) may identify these specialised services.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has also included internet of things (IoT) to fall under the non-discriminatory treatment but with a rider saying critical IoT services, which may be identified by DoT, would be exempted.
Also, the regulator has exempted content delivery networks (CDNs), which enable mobile operators to deliver content within its network without going through the public internet as also allowing telecom operators to deploy traffic management practices (TMP). The operators though need to declare their TMPs when deployed and what impact it would have on the users.
Trai has proposed that licencing terms should be amplified to provide explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in internet access based on the content being accessed. The content would include all content, applications, services and any other data including its end-point information that can be accessed or transmitted over the internet.
“The discriminatory treatment in the context of treatment of content would include any form of discrimination, restriction or interference in the treatment of content including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content,” Trai said.
The telecom operators should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment, the regulator said in the recommendations.
“The scope of proposed principles on non-discriminatory treatment apply specifically to internet access services which are generally available to the public,” Trai added.
The recommendations of Trai have come at a time when the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to roll back its rules on net neutrality that were adopted by it in 2015.
FCC will vote on December 14 to revoke rules on the concept of net neutrality. In India, the whole debate over net neutrality erupted in 2015 when Trai came out with a consultation paper on the regulatory framework for over-the-top services. One of the questions in the paper was if telecom service providers should be allowed to price data differentially based on the content.
Some of the operators were offering free services through their tie-ups with content providers. Facebook’s ‘Free Basics’ as well as Airtel Zero were particularly highlighted by net neutrality activists and the services were later banned by the regulator.
The activists believe that internet should not be regulated based on the content and everybody should get equal rights. However, telecom operators say that as the traffic is going through their infrastructure, for which they have spent crores of rupees, they need to get some control to manage the traffic. The telcos, however, say they will not throttle the internet based on content.
The telecom industry had earlier highlighted their case when over-the-top players like WhatsApp and Skype etc started offering voice services. The telcos wanted these players to be regulated as both are competing for the same set of services.