TRAI seeks views on net neutrality by June 21

TRAI Chairman RS Sharma in India
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday invited comments on its pre-consultation paper on net neutrality from all stakeholders by June 21.

“The pre-consultation paper is an attempt to identify issues, which will help us to formulate views for policy or regulatory interventions on net neutrality,” the regulator said in a statement.

Noting that a variety of applications, websites and other forms of content on internet has enhanced user choice, it said the range of services have varying characteristics, uses and bandwidth requirements.

India had over 331 million Internet subscribers including 311 million wireless Internet users at the end of December 2015. The number of broadband subscribers in India was approximately 136.5 million.

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Forecast says that Internet video traffic (business and consumer, combined) is expected to constitute 74 percent of all Internet traffic in India by 2019, up from 46 percent in 2014.

What’s unreasonable?

# Blocking of applications, websites or any other content on the Internet
# Slowing or throttling Internet speeds
# Preferential treatment of applications, websites or any other content on the Internet
# Discriminatory tariff for data services based on the applications, websites or other content being accessed by the user
# Inspection of the contents of data packets, except to meet lawful requirements or to maintain the security of the network.

OTT communication services, like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and instant messaging use the Internet for their transmission. While such services are governed in some respects by the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, they are not subject to the same regulatory regime that is enforced on conventional voice and messaging services provided by TSPs.

Besides security challenges at the national level, OTT communications and OTT media can also pose a threat to the privacy of individual users. While the open architecture of the Internet is responsible for the phenomenal growth of OTT services, it causes the transfer of personal information on the Internet.

“Increasing internet usage, particularly of services that consume high bandwidth, may require TSPs (telecom service providers) to adopt measures to protect the integrity of the network and provide quality of services to their users,” the statement said.

As net neutrality merits in-depth study of issues, including the selection of tariff management tools by TSPs, the paper highlighted the importance of unrestricted access to internet, transparency and informed choice by users, besides customer privacy and national security.

Department of Telecom (DoT) has also sought our recommendations on net neutrality, including traffic management techniques; economic, security and privacy aspects of OTT services and areas covered in TRAI’s consultation paper on March 27.

Stakeholders can submit their comments to A Robert J Ravi, advisor, on [email protected] or fax to 011-23213036. TRAI will share the comments on net neutrality on the official website. IANS