Big win for netizens as TRAI backs ‘open & free’ internet, prohibits discrimination

Big win for netizens as TRAI backs 'open & free' internet, prohibits discrimination
TRAI restricted service providers from entering into any arrangement that can lead to discriminatory treatment based on content (Representational Image. Courtesy: tucson.com)

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out in support of an ‘open and free’ internet in a series of recommendations concerning net neutrality released on Tuesday.

The regulatory body has also proposed restrictions on service providers from entering into agreements which lead to discriminatory treatment of content on the Internet.

Under the principle of net neutrality, telecom service providers must treat all internet traffic equally, without any regard to the type, origin or destination of the content or the means of its transmission.

Issuing the recommendations on net neutrality, TRAI has also suggested a multi-stakeholder body comprising telecom and Internet service providers, content providers, civil society organisation and consumer representatives for monitoring and investigation of violations.

“Service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract by whatever name called… that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content…,” it said.

The telecom regulator also favoured tweaking of licensing norms of players to ensure that “explicit restrictions” on discrimination in Internet access based on content.

“The discriminatory treatment in the context of treatment of content would include any form of discrimination, restriction or interference in the treatment of content including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content,” TRAI said.

Its consultation paper on the subject floated in January this year had majorly focused on network speed so that telecom operators do not use it for any preferences or prevent access to any website or service like voice calls which requires decent net speed.

Supporters of net neutrality back the principle that the entire Internet traffic should be available to everyone on equal terms without any discrimination based on business considerations of service providers.

In February last year, TRAI addressed a part of net neutrality which was under its jurisdiction. It barred platforms like Facebook’s Internet.Org and Airtel Zero which allowed free access to select websites to check ‘gate-keeping’ in cyberspace.

TRAI’s recommendations come at a time when there is a debate raging globally over net neutrality.

The US regulator, Federal Communications Commission, has said recently that it plans to roll back the “net neutrality” rules the were adopted in America in 2015 and voting on the issue is scheduled in December.

With agency inputs

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