Net Neutrality

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has vouched to put an end to Over-The-Top service. The controversial move, commonly known as Net Neutrality was consulted with internet users by TRAI in 2016. Twitterati, Redditors and Facebook users joined the protests and sent emails to TRAI. More than 10 lakh emails were sent objecting differential pricing on internet content services.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content. The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier, which was used to describe the role of telephone systems.

Acceptance of Net Neutrality would mean the companies which provide you internet could ask money from users for accessing popular websites like Twitter, Youtube etc. The practice of OTT services in India was first mooted by Airtel with the partnership with Facebook’s free basics. Looking over at uproar from users, Airtel was forced to withdraw their OTT plans. The salient features of the recommendations are:

The licensing terms should be amplified to provide explicit resources on any sort of discrimination in Internet access. Content would mean all content, applications and services and any other data, including its end-point information, that can be accessed or transmitted over the internet.

The discriminatory treatment in the context of treatment of content would include any form of discrimination, restriction or interference of content, including practises like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content. Telecom providers cannot amend rules by entering into third-party agreements with any users or companies. Internet Access Services to any available content on the internet should be disruption-free. Any use of protocol services such as blocking, boosting would be illegal.

Content Delivery Networks which enable TSPs to deliver content to its users without going through a public network will be kept out of the non- discriminatory services. Services like Jio Music or Wynk Music by Airtel will continue to provide services for its users. The recommendations of TRAI now have to be accepted by the Department of Telecom so that the service licenses can be amended accordingly so that service providers can adhere to the newly defined regulations.

“The recommendations are principally in agreement with the industry submissions regarding the narrow issue of Net Neutrality, as encompassing, no paid prioritization, no throttling, no fast lane while allowing network management, etc,” says COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews.

Internet is the best thing to happen to a mankind in 21st century. Where you surf after you pay is not prerogative of TSPs. We, the internet makers/users are thankful to TRAI as they just saved the Internet. Victory for Digital India!

– Chaitanya Kulkarni

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