TRAI backs net neutrality with recommendations

TRAI backs net neutrality with recommendations

India's telecom regulator has made recommendations to ensure an open internet in the country and prevent any discrimination in internet access in a long-awaited report, after debating the issue of net neutrality for more than a year.

Commuters watch videos on their mobile phones as they travel in a suburban train in Mumbai, April 2, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade/Files

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: India's telecom regulator has made recommendations to ensure an open internet in the country and prevent any discrimination in internet access in a long-awaited report, after debating the issue of net neutrality for more than a year.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said it was not in favour of any "discriminatory treatment" with data, including blocking, slowing or offering preferential speeds or treatment to any content.

The Indian regulator's support of net neutrality stands in contrast to the recent stance taken by the chair of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Last week, Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump in January, unveiled plans to rescind so-called net neutrality rules championed by former President Barack Obama that treated internet service providers like public utilities.

In India, TRAI ruled in favour of net neutrality in February 2016 by prohibiting discriminatory tariffs for data, after an extended campaign by internet activists who argued that offerings such as Facebook's free basics platform violated net neutrality principles.

The new regulations go a step further and recommend prohibiting any service provider from throttling data speeds.

"The core principles of net neutrality, non-discriminatory treatment of all content, treating internet as an open platform, we've upheld them," TRAI Chairman RS Sharma said.

Idea Cellular Ltd, India's third-biggest wireless carrier, said it was not currently planning to comment on the recommendations, while Vodafone Group said it would respond after studying the suggestions.

Activists said while the recommendations were welcome, they needed to be put into license agreements.

"Our job is not done," said Apar Gupta, a Supreme Court lawyer and co-founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation.

"It falls on the Department of Telecommunications to take the recommendations and turn them into licensing conditions to be put on telecom providers," Gupta said, adding there was no timeframe regarding the implementation of the recommendations.

TRAI's recommendations are the latest in India's efforts to define net neutrality. In 2016, TRAI issued a pre-consultation paper on the hotly debated issue and followed it up with a consultation paper in January 2017.

TRAI's Sharma warned against "providing open access to the internet in the name of specialized service".

"It should not happen that some entity offers specialised services and it basically deteriorates the normal internet service that company provides. That should not happen," Sharma said on a television show on Tuesday.

(Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Source: Reuters

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