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India gives a nod to Net Neutrality, might have the strongest rules in the world

Business Insider 2018-07-12 17:00:00
  • Department of Telecommunications has approved the implementation of ‘net neutrality’ recommendations made by TRAI.
  • Internet service providers are now expected to treat all internet traffic equally, without any discrimination regarding content.
  • Critical services like autonomous vehicles, disaster management and remote diagnostic surgery will be exempted from the rules since emergency situations require them to prioritise a few things over the others.

On Wednesday, the

Telecom Commission

, which is the highest decision making body of the Department of Telecommunications (

DoT

), approved of the

net neutrality regulations

which were recommended by Telecom Regulatory Authority of

India

(TRAI) back in 2017.

These will make internet services in India fairer and freer as the service providers are now expected to treat all internet traffic equally without any content discrimination. Once, net neutrality comes into play, they can not degrade, slow down or grant preferential speeds to any website or online service. As per

BBC

, these rules could turn into the strongest net neutrality project all over the world. The topic of net neutrality, which had been hotly debated in India for four years, seems to finally be getting some direction.

The Telecom Secretary, Aruna Sundararajan said that the licence

agreements

with service providers will be immediately amended and be made subject to the net neutrality principles. This is the best way to implement the rules because if they are violated, the service provider will be simultaneously violating the licence clauses. Such a situation can make internet providers subject to legal action against them.


As per the TRAI recommendations, Internet of Things (IoT) will need to adhere to the regulations but certain critical services like autonomous vehicles, disaster management and remote diagnostic surgery will be exempted from following the rules. This clause has been put in because these services often need to prioritise some things and situations over others.


DoT is also planning to frame a policy on traffic management practices for the service providers. Internet service providers (ISP) often tend to discriminate against websites that do not invest much in them or give them good traffic.

A

body

of industry representatives and civil society will also be set up to monitor and enforce the net neutrality norms.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has, however, recommended that the government review traffic prioritisation policies in the country for

5G-enabled

devices and applications. COAI is worried as they will be unable to use the 5G technique of network slicing, which allows an operator to provide many different types of network service over the same physical device.


TRAI recommendations also stand against zero-rating plans which lets an ISP give free services to some customers. The critics believe that it would give wealthy American companies an unfair advantage over local startups. Two companies, Facebook’s Internet.org and Free Basics project, were

offering free access

to certain internet services in developing nations. In 2016, India had taken its first step to net neutrality by

banning Free Basics

along with similar zero-rating programs.

In contrast to this, USA’s net neutrality law was

repealed

in June, this year. However, some states in the country are trying to come up with their own bills on the matter.