Current net neutrality recommendations are quite narrow in scope, says COAI director general Rajan Mathews

"We don't see any enhanced experience for the end consumer due to the creation of this committee," said Mathews.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) passed recommendations earlier today, which intend to fully support net neutrality. TRAI’s complete list of recommendations have been published online and can be viewed here (PDF). These recommendations will be taken into consideration by the Department of Telecom when it sets about formulating new rules relating to internet access and OTT (over the top) services.

Current net neutrality recommendations are quite narrow in scope, says COAI director general Rajan Mathews

COAI Logo. Image: COAI

TRAI recommends that practices such as degrading speeds, quality of content, blocking access to content or providing 'fast lanes' for content should be prohibited. Telcos or ISPs are also not allowed to get into any sort of agreement with any brand or service which encourages discriminatory treatment of content or services.

Only content delivery networks (CDN) that are local to a telecom service provider (TSP) are exempt, so long as the content is delivered to a closed group of subscribers and is not via the 'public internet'. For instance, Airtel's Wynk service will be exempt from the recommendations, as it is only available to Airtel subscribers, but public internet services such as YouTube will be telco-agnostic and will be protected by net neutrality rules.

Rajan S Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the body representing telecom companies, feels that the recommendations are limiting.

"We have recommended a broader approach when it comes to net neutrality. Internet of Things (IoT) should be taken into consideration along with caveats which will allow free services in certain cases. The current TRAI recommendations are quite narrow in scope as they define net neutrality only in the context of network operators and ISPs. Both of them are in agreement, especially when it comes to no discrimination in terms of speeds when providing services or delivering the internet to their subscribers," said Mathews.

According to Mathews, IoT services should have been totally excluded from the ambit of net neutrality. TRAI's current recommendations do not allow IoT services to be excluded from net neutrality, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) could define the critical IoT services that can be excluded.

TRAI also made a recommendation pertaining to the establishment of a multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and investigating violations of net neutrality. It has recommended representation by different categories such as TSPs, ISPs, large and small content providers, representatives from research and academia, civil society organisations and more.

According to Mathews, this is another unnecessary recommendation.

"It just makes the whole process extremely bureaucratic, as DoT has existing mechanisms to take care of any violations of these rules. We don't see any enhanced experience for the end consumer due to the creation of this committee," said Mathews.

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