TRAI comes out in full support of net neutrality, issues recommendations against the discriminatory treatment of content

TRAI has issued its recommendations on net neutrality, which seek to restrict any kind of discrimination to internet access.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out in full support of net neutrality. To that end, TRAI has issued its recommendations on net neutrality, which specifically recommend that license terms be amplified to restrict any kind of discrimination to internet access.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

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.

The highlights of the recommendations are as follows:

Primarily, the new recommendations state that operator license be amplified to specify “explicit restrictions” on discrimination in internet access based on content, protocols or user equipment. TRAI recommends that practices like degrading the quality of content, blocking access or interfering with it any content in a discriminatory fashion be prohibited. Service providers must be barred from entering into any sort of agreement with anyone that encourages discriminatory treatment of content or internet services.

All these recommendations apple to “Internet Access Services” (IAS), which TRAI has now clearly defined in its paper on recommendations.

TRAI does add that those services that are not classified as IAS and requiring specialised hardware, network optimisations, etc. are exempted from these “principles of discriminatory treatment.” These specialised services will be identified and define by the DoT.

As per the new recommendations, Internet of Things (IoT) services are not excluded from this, though the DoT should have the authority to define those critical IoT services that can be excluded.

It must be noted that IAS specifically refers to services requiring internet access. As TRAI points out, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) that are local to a Telecom Service Provider’s (TSP) network are exempt as long as said content is not delivered via “public internet.” If, for example, JioTV or Airtel Wynk is delivered only on a Jio or an Airtel network, i.e., the content is inaccessible over the internet, it will be exempt from the restrictions set forth by these principles. YouTube and Netflix, both of which are content services delivered over the internet, fall under the definition of IAS and are thus, protected by net neutrality rules.

TRAI also recommends that TSP’s be given the freedom to take any “reasonable” measures for traffic management and for network integrity and security, but adds that these measures must be transparent and fair, and that users should be notified of the impact of these measures. Exceptions will be made for government orders, emergency services, etc.

Finally, TRAI recommends the establishment of a “multi-stakeholder body which will be responsible for the development, implementation and enforcement of standards pertaining to the principles of discriminatory treatment of content.

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