31/05/2016 10:26 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST

TRAI Ask Questions On Net Neutrality In A Pre-Consultation Paper

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Data equality concept of a wooden court gavel next to a sign that says net neutrality,

The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a pre-consultation paper, setting the ground for the debate on net neutrality in India. The paper, which was released today, poses questions on the subject, including what the definition of net neutrality in India should be.

The purpose of the paper is to identify the relevant issues that will help TRAI formulate its views on the way forward for policy or regulatory interventions.

The paper frames the discussion by stating that, "TSPs [Telcom Service Providers] must treat all Internet traffic on an equal basis, without regard to the type, origin, or destination of the content or the means of its transmission." It also addresses issues such as traffic management and unrestricted access by telecom service providers. It states that TSPs must not throttle any service's traffic nor must they block any application or service without permission by the authorities.

There are six key questions on which TRAI has solicited the views of stake holders:

1) What should be regarded as the core principles of net neutrality in the Indian context? What are the key issues to be taken into account so that the principles of net neutrality are ensured?

This question is about the definition of net neutrality in India.

2) What are the reasonable traffic management practices that need to be followed by TSPs while providing Internet access services and in what manner could these be misused? Are there any other current or potential practices in India that might give rise to concerns about net neutrality?

The idea here is to address potential programs which might favour one service over another. In the US, for instance, there is a huge protest going on against T-mobile's Binge On service.

3) What should be India's policy and/or regulatory approach in dealing with issues relating to net neutrality? Please comment with


4) What precautions must be taken with respect to the activities of TSPs and content providers to ensure that national security

interests are preserved? Please comment with justification.

There is a need to regulate certain websites in India that feature objectionable content such as child pornography. TRAI is asking for views on such sites. In addition, views have been solicited on how traffic management and transparency should be handled while keeping the freedom of Internet intact. These questions also address the issue of balancing universal access to the Internet without compromising on the security and integrity of India.

5) What precautions must be taken with respect to the activities of TSPs and content providers to maintain customer privacy?

Please comment with justification.

While regulating the traffic of the Internet, telecoms should keep all the data of customers, whether personal data or the data on the Internet in a secure environment. What steps should be taken to ensure this.

6) What further issues should be considered for a comprehensive policy framework for defining the relationship between TSPs and OTT (Over The Top) content providers?

Comments on other issues regarding OTT providers, such as regulation on calling over the Internet or encrypted messaging services.

Since last year, TRAI has released several consultation papers and orders on the Internet in India. In March 2015, they released the paper on regulatory framework on OTT services such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook messenger. In December 2015, they released a paper on differential pricing by the service providers, which led to TRAI ruling against differential prices . As a result, services such as Airtel Zero and Facebook's Free Basics were not allowed to be launched.

The paper also cites the different norms used in different parts of the world, such as net neutrality laws of Australia, the European Union, Brazil, Japan and the US. The last date to send comments to TRAI is 21 June 2016. You can send your views on Currently in India, different groups are engaged in a tussle over net neutrality. Groups such as Savetheinternet and Free Software Movement Of India are supporting the cause by educating people through blog posts and videos.

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