Nearly eight months after the Telecom Regulatory Authority expressed its explicit support for the policy of net neutrality, the Centre’s department of telecommunication (DoT) approved the rules governing the same.
This is an extremely positive development for netizens.
As per the TRAI’s recommendations, internet service providers (ISPs) should be prohibited from engaging in “any form of discrimination or interference” in the treatment of online content. All data on the internet is equal, and ISPs cannot engage in practices like “blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.”
The decision to approve the new net neutrality rules was made by the Telecom Commission—the highest decision-making body in the DoT.
“The TC today approved net neutrality as recommended by TRAI. Now the licence agreements (with service providers) will be immediately amended and will be subject to principles of net neutrality,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan told reporters, although she added that a few “critical services” would be left out of its purview.
“Any deviations and violations of the rules of net neutrality—which will come into effect almost immediately—will be met with stiff penalties, including possible cancellation of licence,” she added.
According to TRAI Chief, RS Sharma, there are two categories of services that will be exempted from net neutrality rules—critical IoT services and specialised services. However, there is still isn’t enough clarity on what these services will entail.
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“Those categories of critical services that will be notified subsequently by the DoT, will be kept out, and that is in line with international practices. A separate regime for critical services will be issued,” Sundararajan told reporters.
Despite overwhelming support for TRAI’s recommendations, the Cellular Operation Association of India, a telecom lobby group, expressed their reservations about the government’s net neutrality rules, which they believe could hamper innovation.
“Where the net neutrality recommendations are concerned, we have already expressed our support on issues pertaining to the non-discriminatory use of the Internet, including no blocking, no throttling and adoption of same service-same rules. That said, we reiterate our earlier position that a light touch regulatory approach should be adopted so that the Net Neutrality rules do not hamper innovation,” Rajan S Mathews, the Director General of COAI, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the Donald Trump administration has shot down net neutrality, denying a majority of its citizens unfettered access to the internet.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)