Net neutrality approved: Internet to remain free

Centre approves telecom authority’s recommendations on net neutrality

Centre approves telecom authority’s recommendations on net neutrality

Experts say the decision, intending to ensure open and free internet in India, could be the strongest in the world.

In simple terms, the internet service providers won't be able to block or throttle any web traffic, be it on computers, laptops or mobile phones, and offer fast lanes for content providers who pay for the privilege. Once, net neutrality comes into play, they cannot degrade, slow down or grant preferential speeds to any website or online service.

India finally will now be governed by the net neutrality rules as the Telecom Commission has approved of the recommendations made by the regulatory body Telecom Regulatory Association of India (TRAI).

Confirming the news of net neutrality rule has been approved, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters, "The Telecom Commission today approved net neutrality as recommended by TRAI, except some critical services will be kept out of its purview".

The TC recommendations are culmination of a debate over net neutrality that started in India two years back in response to Facebook offering free Internet for a pre-selected service websites in tie-up with telecom companies.

In November, TRAI held firm on its net neutrality stance. This clause has been put in because these services often need to prioritise some things and situations over others.

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Popular tech website Gizmodo put it most succinctly - "Indian net neutrality activists argued that Free Basics was a way for Facebook to shape internet access".

Pahwa was at the forefront of India's first battle to preserve net neutrality in 2015, when Facebook's plan to provide free internet to hundreds of millions of Indians came under vast public pressure. 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. 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.

Singh agrees. "Retailing connectivity in this manner is the way to go if we want to quickly expand the internet access among the people, if we want to take the internet cheaply to the poor people of the country".

India's telecom regulator TRAI has issued rules to unequivocally protect net neutrality principles while Trump appointee and FCC chair Ajit Pai is well on his way to dismantling it in the US.

No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the objective of evading the prohibition in this regulation.

DoT is also planning to frame a policy on traffic management practices for the service providers.

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