Net Neutrality debate: TRAI and govt mull law, telecos want OTTs regulated and ... - The Indian Express

TRAI, Net Neutrality debate, Net Neutrality India, Net Neutrality in India, SavetheInternet, Internet india, The net neutrality debate as it currently stands in India.

The Net Neutrality debate has once again picked up pace in India after telecom regulator TRAI released the responses it has received on its paper, which called for regulation of OTT players like WhatsApp, Skype, etc.

TRAI reportedly received over 10 lakh responses to its paper and later put out all responses, including email ids of common users who had sent their replies on the issue. TRAI's move to make so many email ids as public was seen as a careless one, given that it exposed over 1 million users to spammers.

TRAI divided the comments into three sections- Comments from the Service Providers; Comments from the Service Providers' Association, and Comments from other Stakeholders (which includes the regular folks, tech start-ups, etc.)

We take a look at the latest on the debate regarding Net Neutrality.

TRAI and government looking at law: The Indian Express had reported earlier, TRAI and the government are veering towards the view that there is a need for a public law spelling out "dos and don'ts" to ensure net neutrality.

According to our report, a background note by the department of telecom (DoT) to a six-member committee argues for "having specific measure for enforcing net neutrality", keeping in view factors relevant in the Indian context. Three of the four factors — need for increased broadband availability, a competitive environment and low telecom tariff — clearly suggest that market forces will take care of any aberration by telecom service providers (TSPs).

Read the full report here.

Telecos demand regulation on OTT players: Responding to Trai's paper, telecom operators called for regulation of (OTT) players like WhatsApp and Skype.

"While it is important for OTT communication service providers to be brought under a regulatory framework on an urgent basis, OTT application services providers who are merely the end users of the internet need not be brought under any licensing/regulatory regime," Bharti Airtel said. The 'end user' providers include apps prepared by the information dissemination websites, such as news and entertainment portals.

In their official reply to the TRAI paper, Airtel has said, "Currently, TSPs and OTT communication service providers offer the same communication services such as voice. While TSPs are subject to a number of regulatory & licensing requirements, such as payment of licence fee, taxes, security conditions, etc, OTT communication service providers have no such obligations."

Airtel's reply also says that there is a need for traffic management, which activists say would violate the principle of Net Neutrality.

"There is a pressing need to find a fair regulatory and commercial solution especially for VOIP telephony services, which if not addressed could endanger the entire Digital India programme of the Government," Vodafone India said.

In its comments Vodafone said, "Strict net neutrality would mean that the service provider would not distinguish between a video or voice packet which is more sensitive to delay and an email or message which is less sensitive to delay. If such rules were to be followed in practice, this would mean that calls will drop and video will buffer, as both of these services require higher priority to work effectively, as embedded in telecoms standards on a worldwide basis."

IAMAI, Nasscom argue for Net Neutrality: The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has called for a law that completely favours net neutrality.

The group wrote, "Non-communication OTT players should be allowed to mushroom and no license is needed at this stage. Innovation should be encouraged and India should benefit from high quality IT specialists who want to turn entrepreneurs. It is critical that their cost structure is kept low at this stage."

Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said it is not true that innovations of VoIP and text apps have affected the TSPs financial stability and available data, points to the contrary.

"Indicators of revenues from regulatory filings, earning calls of telecom companies and public statements clearly indicate that data is driving telecom growth," IAMAI said. IAMAI was also critical of TRAI's paper and said that it was leaning heavily in favour of TSPs.

Nasscom said the Information Technology Act is mandated to ensure regulation over OTTs and believed that there is no need for any additional regulations for content and services.

"Internet Platforms and Services communications do not require licensing. There are user led evaluation reports that helps consumers make an informed choice as they adopt internet platforms and services," Nasscom said.

"In principle, barring steps taken for traffic and network optimization and management under special circumstances there should be no discrimination either based on price or otherwise. Need to prioritise packets arises due network optimization and is also linked to nature of services that is decided by the nature of services and already built into the protocols of the services, and is not left to the TSPs," Nasscom added on differential data packets.

TRAI will give its final comments on 9 May and while these comments will not be binding on the government, it remains to be seen which way the duo will go.


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