TRAI to recommend net neutrality regulations while telcos spar with internet companies

Telecom players have also demanded TRAI to clearly define internet and content.

Telecom regulator TRAI today said it is likely to finalise recommendations on net neutrality, which calls for access to internet content without any discrimination in data speed and cost with telecom and internet firms sparring over the controversial issue.

Telecom operators have been pushing for their right to charge for content like video and commercial websites as per the business case so that they have more funds to invest in building telecom infrastructure.

Image: TRAI.

Image: PTI.

On the other hand, internet companies have been advocating that internet should be provided at low cost so that more and more people are able to use online services. Besides, they have been demanding that telecom operators should not discriminate between online content on cost or internet speed basis.

"All stakeholders are actively participating in this (net neutrality) debate. I think TRAI should be able to give appropriate recommendation to the government which they have asked for," TRAI Chairman RS Sharma told reporters here on the sidelines of an open house discussion on the issue.

When asked about timeline for recommendations, Sharma said: "It should not take more than a month."

Telecom players have also demanded TRAI to clearly define internet and content.

Sharma said the definition is already given in its regulation on discriminatory tariff and stakeholders can also share their views as it will help in revising definition of internet and content.

"This is a comprehensive paper on net neutrality and we will see whether those regulation which we have issued they need to be modified or not," Sharma said.

He said that he will look at works of international regulators but the policy should be made in Indian context.

"While experience of other regulator will be guide to us, a knowledge repository, but ultimately policy shall be guided by our national interest," Sharma said.

While representatives of major internet companies were not seen raising any point at the open house, people from not-for-profit organisations countered telecom operators and advocated for content providers.

A representative of Reliance Communications said that while framing the recommendations TRAI should consider discriminatory practices of internet firms.

He said there have been instances where an ecommerce firm created discrimination among telecom networks by showing different price of a product on different telecom networks.

The RCom representative suggested that telecom operators should be given leeway to deal with commercial content or content carrying advertisements.

Save The Internet volunteer and Medianama founder Nikhil Pahwa opposed the point and said that the approach suggested by the RCom representative will lead to "extortion" by telecom operators.

Telecom industry body COAIs Director General Rajan S Mathews objected to the term extortion saying that the telecom players do not call content providers as "ticket less travellers".

Incumbent players and some content firms demanded that the regulator should consider framing recommendations around bundled mobile handsets that restrict access to application available on internet.

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