Express News Service
NEW DELHI: India's communications watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) scored a win for net neutrality advocates across the world on Tuesday, recommending that internet service providers be restricted from any discrimination in internet access based on content.
The recommendations assume international significance in the heated globe-spanning debate, with the United States’ Federal Communications Commission expected to remove existing guidelines ensuring net neutrality come December.
Trai, on the other hand, has come out on the side of ensuring net neutrality -- which requires telecom service providers to treat all internet traffic equally, without regard for the type, origin, or destination of the content or the means of its transmission.
The set of recommendations made by Trai today after its year-long consultation process include “amplifying licensing terms” to provide “explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in Internet access based on the content being accessed, the protocols being used or the user equipment being deployed…”
Content, as defined by Trai, include all content applications, services and any other data, including end-point information, that can be accessed or transmitted over the internet.
The watchdog has also recommended that internet service providers (ISP) be restricted “from entering into any agreement, arrangement or contract” that would have the effect of discriminatory treatment -- in this case, any form of restriction or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.
“Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content,” Trai said.
However, the scope of the provisions only applies “specifically to Internet Access Services, which are generally available to the public.” According to the recommendations, specialised services -- which are “optimized for specific content, protocols or user equipment… where optimization is necessary to meet the quality of service requirements” are exempt from the principles of discriminatory treatment.
Trai has also brought in Internet of Things (IoT) enabled services also under the ambit of these restrictions, with a caveat that critical IoT services, identified by Department of Telecom (DoT) and coming under specialised services, will be automatically exempt.
A multi-stakeholder body to monitor and investigate violations will also be formed, comprising members from different categories of service or videos, content providers, research and academia, civil society organisations and consumer representatives.