Net neutrality in India has been one of the most debated issues in the country over the past few months. Although net neutrality activists did breathe a sigh of relief after TRAI banned the controversial Free Basics and zero rating programs such as Airtel Zero, we are yet to get a concrete Government policy on the issue.
However, Indian Government is now in final stages to come up with the net neutrality policy and has asked the regulator TRAI and telecom department to submit recommendations for the same, reported the ET.
We have received a letter from DoT (telecom department) on making recommendations on net neutrality as a whole, and we will shortly float a consultation paper on it,
said TRAI Chairman RS Sharma.
The PMO has set up a three-member panel under Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to overlook the whole issue of the open internet. It is noteworthy that the upcoming recommendation paper by TRAI will override the previous recommendation paper submitted by TRAI (under then TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar).
That paper had come under severe criticism from net neutrality advocates for its recommendations on the regulation of over-the-top (OTT) players such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, etc.
In the new paper, TRAI, in addition to coming up with a proper definition of net neutrality, will focus on other issues which have been brought to light over the past few months.These include choices of different speeds by service providers for different websites as well as the issue of blocking and prioritizing of data.
Department of Telecom (DoT) has already included these issues in its report submitted last year. In addition to condemning the internet.org initiative of Facebook, the report had also recommended to not allow the zero-rating plans of telcos and also proposed a ban on throttling and any sort of prioritisation of Internet traffic.
On the issue of OTT services, which are widely criticized by telecom operators for eating their revenues, DoT had recommended to keeping a “regulatory insight” on such services.
Given the fact that TRAI has already taken regulatory measures against discriminatory data pricing and services such as Free Basics, we can expect a much better consultation paper this time which will ultimately lead to an effective government policy on the net neutrality.