Net Neutrality is the most controversial topics of our times, and as soon as something new comes up emotions flare up. Free internet activists have been fighting this war for long now, and the recent move by the Indian regulator is a relief for many. On the other hand, it annoys some large companies, which had big plans to make even bigger bucks by “Breaking the Internet”.
Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has shared its recommendations on Net Neutrality on 28th November 2017, which gives a Boost to the concept of the open and free internet.
Trai Chairman Mr. R S Sharma has said that “No One Owns the internet and it is should be open and accessible to everyone. ISPs have the power to become the gatekeepers for this important platform, but they should not do so.”
Back in February 2016, Trai shared recommendations on the discriminatory pricing for data by ISPs, which was a blow to services like the Airtel Zero and Internet.ORG from Mark Zuckerberg.
Airtel Zero offered free access to some of the Apps and services on Airtel network. Making that a preferential treatment while the Internet.org allowed people to visit some of the partnered websites on the Reliance network, without the need to pay for the internet. Both have been shot down by TRAI.
Even Before that in 2014, Airtel tried to do a differential data charging for Voice calls made using data, which was withdrawn by the company after a public backlash.
Trai Net Neutrality Recommendation Paper Key Points
The current Trai recommendation paper deals with the issue of offering discriminatory treatment of Internet Access, content consumed, protocol deployed or equipment used.
Trai has clearly stated that they are against the preferential treatment of a particular content by the ISPs in terms of providing better speed or access to it. Or to block or throttle another content provider who doesn’t have a tie-up with the ISP.
What does it mean for Start-Ups and Small Players?
This is a positive move by TRAI for Net Neutrality in India. As India is a growing economy and allowing preferential treatment will make sure the startups and smaller companies are at a disadvantage, compared to larger media houses, which can easily buy the special access from ISPs.
Restrictions on ISPs and TSPs to Stop Preferential Treatment
TRAI in the 54-page long recommendation paper has also shared the necessary changes in the license conditions, to ensure penalties can be taken from the non-abiding ISPs. To ensure transparency and enforce the rules, TRAI has also suggested a multi-stakeholder body to be formed, which can monitor and ensure the policies.
Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) and ISPs are prohibited to enter into any contract or legally binding agreement to offer a preferential treatment on the internet based on content, sender, receiver, protocol or equipment.
“Mr. R S Sharma also said that Intenet is a very important platform for a country like India and it is vital to keep it free and open … No one owns the internet and so everyone owns it.”
On the other hand, the Telcom Operators association (COAI – Cellular Operators Association of India) has termed the move of setting up a multi-stakeholder body to monitor the violations as draconian and unnecessary. Telecom Operators have said that this move if implemented can disrupt smooth services and TRAI should have considered a more market-driven approach to handle the issue rather than offering such strict measures.
A more market-driven approach means an approach which is proposed in the US to benefit operators like Verizon and AT&T, to offer differential tariffs.
Traffic Management And Content Delivery Network
TRAI has however allowed TSPs to practice Traffic management practices (TMPs). Which means the telecom operators can regulate the traffic at specific times to ensure outage or disruption of services. Also, they will have to be transparent in reporting and will have to document the consumer impact of such measures.
Additionally, TRAI has exempted specialized services and CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) from the Net Neutrality. The specialized services can be like a bank buying a pipeline of data traffic for internal operations, or a medical surgery being done from a remote location, such cases can have a prioritized access.
IOT – The real-time IOT (Internet of Things) services like Autonomous Cars and similar services are also not guided by the principles set by these TRAI guidelines, as these have critical connectivity requirements. Though other non-critical IOT applications fall under the purview of the rules and will be monitored for violations.
Also, the Content Delivery Networks are exempted from the purview which helps in saving bandwidth and speed up the connection to the end consumer. There are some arguments arising from this as Bharti and JIO have their own content platforms (wink movies and JIO Cinema) which they can boost using the CDN to offer a better speed for such services.
These guidelines are sent by TRAI to the DOT (Department of Telecom) which will take a final call on the implementation of these.
Net Neutrality is A Burning Issue in The US
Recently the Net Neutrality debate has caught fire in the US after the FCC (Federal Competition Commission) proposed to scrap the existing laws and form new laws which give more power to the Telecom Service providers like AT&T and Verizon. In protest, lakhs of comments and calls have been made to the Congress and the FCC to push back the new guidelines, which are supposed to be announced on 14th December.
The FCC Chairman Mr. Ajit Pai has said that the existing guidelines are too hard for the telecom companies to pursue new business models and hence need to be changed.
Mr. Ajit has been under a lot of criticism from the Net Neutrality supporters and lot of websites like the verizonprotests.com are set up to unite people and bring them together to fight against the FCC ruling.
Thoughts on Net Neutrality in India – Internet Should Live Free
Telecom companies have been notorious for finding new ways to kill the free internet, and these new TRAI guidelines are a big blow to them.
While I am not a big fan of TRAI when it comes to policy matters but I am pleased with these recommendations and the stand to keep the internet free in India.
The developed countries like the US or Europe are headed on a path of helping big companies making more big bucks. India seems to be offering highest standards of Net Neutrality.
As per Amba Kak (handles technology policy for Mozilla), the US and Europe use either speed or pricing which is a watered down standard for neutrality. EU (European Regulators for Electronic Communications) and the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) allows the ZERO Rating on a case to case basis, which is prohibited in India.
Definitely, the regulatory environment and the guidelines will help the dream of inclusive Digital India, by keeping the level playing field for all small and big players.
Benefits Small Players and Start-Ups
A lot of smaller players and companies have praised the move from TRAI and are happy with the current scheme of things which help keep the internet a free and open space for everyone.
Personally, I think the role of telecom players is to sell the data pipeline to users and it is the user who should have the choice what he wants to read or watch.
I believe data access is more like an electricity connection, the electricity board (ISP and TSP) should not tell me what to watch or not watch as long as I am paying them their monthly bills.
From a small independent publisher point of view, I believe TRAI recommendations offers all bloggers and website / App creators to have an equal opportunity.
What Good is the internet without – Free Opinion | Free Blogs | Free Voice?
The Internet has been born free and should live like that, should not be restricted for the sake of making more money by large corporates.
Time to Celebrate !!! Long Live #NetNeutrality !!!
Share Your Thoughts in the Comments Below… Do you think it is the right move by TRAI?
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