Net neutrality: Broadband forum seeks level playing field

Jio 4G network
Advocating free data for increased usage, Broadband India Forum has sought a level playing field between internet / telecom service providers and over-the-top (OTT) communication (content) players.

OTT players need to be brought under the same regulatory regime as the internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom service providers (TSPs), said Broadband India Forum in its response to the pre-consultation paper on net neutrality issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on May 30.

Favouring decision to tie up with content providers be left to telecom service providers and not on the basis of their business case, it said there was no need for ex-ante regulation as there was enough competition and the market was vibrant.

Telecom regulator TRAI can examine tariff plans on a case-by-case basis after hearing the operators if there is any violation.

Broadband India Forum has sought a holistic and periodic review of net neutrality and differential pricing. TRAI should ensure the same services were treated in a neutral way to protect customers and achieve objectives of the government’s Digital India campaign.

“Our submission is a balanced view of application/content providers and ISPs on the complex and evolving issue of net neutrality,” said the forum which represents diverse stakeholders such as start-ups Blue Town and Airjaldi, which provide rural broadband, international service providers like AT&T, content providers like Facebook and TSPs/ISPs such as Bharti Airtel, Telenor and Vodafone.

Broadband India Forum’s definition of net neutrality is no blocking, no throttling, open internet, no improper prioritisation, open, easy and non-discriminatory access, recognition of four categories of traffic, equitable regulatory treatment of similar services and permission of zero rating systems.

Broadband India Forum has listed internet traffic in four categories, which place different demands on limited network resources, viz., email and browsing, YouTube, video streaming and movie downloads, specialised services like remote medical diagnosis, disaster management, emergency services, and Voice over IP/Internet Telephony.

Broadband India Forum endorsed the department of telecom’s recommendations on the issue. “The forum said core principles of net neutrality should be made part of the license conditions with mutual agreement and the licensor issuing guidelines,” said Broadband India Forum.