The Department of Telecommunication ( or DOT), which is acting in an advisory capacity to the TRAI recently released its final views on the hotly debated topic of net neutrality. And the 100 age document has some pretty solid points made.
Taking a tough stand on the internet service providers which provide VOIP (Voice over internet Protocol), the DOT said that the existing regulations for these services need to be tweaked keeping in mind the fact that these services bypass the licensing and regulatory processes that companies in the communication sector must go through in order to provide the same service which in effect goes against the spirit of fair competition.
In the report, the DOT also recommended a case by case study of zero rating plans adding that managed and enterprises services could be amongst those exempt from Net neutrality.
The report, which had almost one and a half page dedicated to internet.org stated that
Content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as gatekeepers and use network operations to extract value even if it is for an ostensible public purpose,
Again emphasizing on a case by case look by TRAI at gate keeping by telecom operators via Zero Rating.
The report certainly favoured Airtel’s outlook
However, according to the same report, apps and messaging apps should be exempt from licensing under net neutrality while a liberal approach to international VOIP calls has been recommended. Similarly, while allowing for traffic management, the report speaks against management that is app specific.
While the DOT report spoke of the importance of Net neutrality, it also underlined the paramount import of national security,
National security is paramount, regardless of treatment of net neutrality.
adding that, inter-ministerial consultations would be necessary in order to successfully approach and treat security issues.
The final recommendations of DOT, as to what should be the focus of the Public policy on net neutrality can be understood by the following excerpt from the Abridged version of alleged DoT report prepared by awesome folks at MediaNama.
Expand access to broadband, bridging the digital divide, promote social inclusion, Enable investment, directly or indirectly, to facilitate broadband expansion, prevent distortion of competitive markets, recognize rights of users to access lawful content without discrimination, support development of apps relevant for users.
Well, considering the fact that the recommendations must make their way through the formidable labyrinth of Indian bureaucracy and would act only as a basis for TRAI’s own report to the Government, some changes in the final policy on the topic are to be expected.
However, as of now, this is the direction in which net neutrality in India seems to be moving towards and speaking for myself, I certainly hope that the goals mentioned in the policy are achieved, someday soon.
And while the DoT report has (obviously) condemned Facebook for being selective in putting up content on its Internet.org service, here’s what we have received from Facebook’s Vice-President for Mobile and Global Access Policy Kevin Martin,
The preservation of the core principles of net neutrality and the promotion of innovation and infrastructure within the context of India’s Internet access challenges are critical to bringing more people online.
As recognized in today’s report, we introduced the Internet.org Platform to promote an internet access model that is open and non-exclusive. Internet.org acts as a gateway, as opposed to a gatekeeper, to Internet access by breaking down the cost, infrastructure and social barriers that exist today.
We welcome the DoT’s engagement and consultation process and are committed to working with all stakeholders to overcome the infrastructure, affordability and social barriers that exist today and to bring more people in India online.