India’s approval of Net Neutrality marks a big success in terms of open Internet crusade, especially when Net Neutrality rules terminated last month in the United States.
Under the Indian-specific laws, the Times reports that mobile operators, internet providers, and social-media and internet companies can not engage in, or seek, preferential treatment.
Net neutrality rules bar service providers from discriminating against internet content or services by blocking them or modifying access speeds.
Sundararajan said DoT would identify the critical services and there will be a separate regime for such services in consultation with Trai informally but licenses will be amended immediately to accommodate net neutrality principles.
The Commission, though, has excluded some critical services like autonomous vehicles and telemedicine, which need faster speeds.
Net neutrality is back in the news.
As for the “non-level playing field” argument, these private telecom companies in question are huge multinationals, and comparing them to the PDO aggregators – who would retail internet to a thousand or more PDOs – is not valid to begin with, but more on that in a bit. The new rules have stringent monetary penalties for breaching net neutrality norms, starting at INR 50,000 per violation per day and capped at INR 50 lakh depending on the gravity of the violation. Net neutrality rules prevent such a scenario by requiring ISPs to connect users to all lawful content on the internet equally, without giving preferential treatment to certain sites or services. This should particularly feel reassuring after USA, the world’s biggest internet economy and home of major tech companies, seems undecided on the future of net neutrality. The new telecom policy aimed at attracting an investment of $100 billion in the digital communications sector is likely to be in place by July 2018, Communications Minister Manoj Sinha had said on June 12.
The draft of the policy, brought out in May, proposed to address the problems of the sector and enhance ease of doing business by reviewing licence fees, spectrum usage charges and universal service obligation fund levy – all of which add to the cost of telecom services. It also coincided with the launch of Airtel Zero, launched by Bharti Airtel and Free Basics by Facebook – both the platforms gave free access to certain websites.
With Trai’s and Berec’s combined efforts, a huge part of the world’s population is now pro-net neutrality. “That said, we reiterate our earlier position that a light touch regulatory approach should be adopted so that the Net Neutrality rules do not hamper innovation”, Rajan S Mathews, the Director General of COAI, said in a statement.
The rules grant exceptions to some services, including internet calling and online television provided by telecom companies.