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TRAI throws its support behind net neutrality

TRAI throws its support behind net neutrality

Indian regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has advocated enforcing strict rules on net neutrality after conducting a consultation on the matter.

The regulator made several recommendations to ensure that the internet remains open, calling for “explicit restrictions” on giving preferential (or unfavourable) treatment to any content, apps or services provided via public internet.

TRAI’s suggestions will now be put to procedures for consideration. If they become law, then “any form of discrimination, restriction or interference of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content” would become illegal.

Traffic management measures would be permitted on the condition that they are “proportionate, transient and transparent”, while provisions would also be made for specialist services as well as requests by the government or emergency services. The regulations would also apply to providers of IoT infrastructure apart from any defined as a critical service.

TRAI also proposed forming a monitoring body to address any violations of the laws. The regulator suggested that internet service providers, content providers, consumer groups and civil society as well as academics should all be represented in the group.

The regulator began its consultation into net neutrality in March 2015, prompting a national debate over the issue that led to TRAI moving to block zero-rated services such as the Airtel Zero promotion offered by market leader Bharti Airtel, as well as Facebook’s Free Basics offering. Operators hit back at the bans, claiming that the regulator’s stance was unclear.

The timing of TRAI’s announcement coincides with interest flaring up around net neutrality in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) being urged by internet companies to reject its chairman Ajit Pai’s proposed repeal of the USA’s net neutrality laws, which have been enshrined in law since 2015.