Competition Comission Waits For Net Neutrality Norms Before Probing Telcos

11/05/2015 2:48 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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MANJUNATH KIRAN via Getty Images
Indian activists wear Guy Fawkes masks as they hold placards during a demonstration supporting 'net neutrality' in Bangalore on April 23, 2015. The activists urged the Indian government to pass legislation to ensure net neutraliy and prevent private service providers from gaining control over the internet. AFP PHOTO / Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — With debate continuing to rage on Net Neutrality, the Competition Commission will wait for regulations to be in place before taking a call on whether actions of telecom and Internet firms amount to unfair ways.

The Competition Commission of India started looking into whether telecom operators and Internet service providers are indulging in unfair business ways by extending preferential treatment to select mobile applications and websites. However, the watchdog has now decided to wait for more clarity on regulations for ensuring net neutrality before moving further.

"With regard to the issue of Net Neutrality, there are no clear regulations in place so far. The authorities are working on it and once the regulations are clear, then we (Commission) can look at the issue," a senior CCI official said.

It is not an issue for the Commission right now, the official noted. Telecom watchdog TRAI recently floated a discussion paper seeking comments on regulatory framework for Net Neutrality, and the opinion is divided on the issue.

The government has said meanwhile that it stands for ensuring non-discriminatory access to the Internet for all. The principle of Net Neutrality implies equal treatment to be accorded to all Internet traffic, without discrimination or priority for any person, entity or company. CCI, which keeps a tab on unfair business practices across sectors, orders a detailed probe into a matter only if there is prima-facie evidence of anti-competitive ways.

The Net Neutrality debate was sparked off recently after some telecom operators and Internet companies came up with plans that offer preferential treatment in using the Internet. Bharti Airtel has launched 'Airtel Zero', an open marketing platform that allows customers to access a variety of mobile applications for free, with the data charges being paid by start-ups and large companies.

Besides, Reliance Communications and Uninor have tied up with players like Facebook, WhatsApp and Wikipedia to offer free usage to consumers.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Friday said it does not intend to police the Internet but there are three unexceptional principles including 'no blocking' which are not debatable.

TRAI recently floated a consultation paper for regulatory framework on over-the-top (OTT) service like Internet-based calling and messaging services and net neutrality.

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