Telecom regulator TRAI has renewed the debate over free and open internet by issuing a much-awaited paper that plans to define net neutrality and identify pertinent issues.
In a pre-consultation paper, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ( TRAI ) sought suggestions from stakeholders on six important questions, including what should include the core principles and policy approach toward net neutrality in India.
TRAI also wanted views on the "reasonable traffic management practices" that carriers may need to adopt and in what manner these could be distorted. This question covers a significant facet of net neutrality that's against any move by service providers to slow down or speed up access to websites.
It also covers issue of blocking or prioritising of data with traffic management tools, say supporters of a free internet.
While seeking views on a policy outline showing relationship between telcos and apps, or over-the-top (OTT) players, TRAI also asked for comments on insurances that need to be in place to safeguard customer privacy and safeguard national security.
Even as there is a comprehensive agreement on the need for net neutrality — a concept that guarantees free and identical access to the internet for all — telcos want app makers that provide communications services such as Skype and WhatsApp to be regulated, so that they follow similar security and privacy rules that govern carriers besides having to adhere to licensing and revenue-sharing conditions. Communications app providers say any move to regulate them would stifle innovation.
This paper is an attempt to find out relevant issues in these areas, which will help TRAI in framing its views on the way forward for policy or regulatory interventions," the regulator said. Responses have been sought by June 21.
Since last year or so, the regulator has issued three papers on numerous aspects of net neutrality without taking any concluding view on the matter. However it seems that this latest paper aims to tackle the issue holistically.
Newest paper comes after the regulator in February barred biased pricing of data services, including zero-rated plans such as Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero, tackling net neutrality from a tariff perspective.