DoT amends licences of telcos to incorporate net neutrality rules

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The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has amended the licences of telecom operators and internet service providers to incorporate net neutrality rules, which means that no service provider can now restrict or discriminate in the treatment of content by blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds in providing internet access.  

The Telecom Commission, which is the highest decision-making body of DoT, had cleared the rules last month.

The government is committed to the fundamental principles and concepts of net neutrality i.e keep the internet accessible and available to all without discrimination, the DoT said in a notification.

Sectoral regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had given the recommendations on the subject in November last year. 

Some critical services would remain out of the purview of the net neutrality rules.

Internet of things (IoT) as a class won't be exempted from net neutrality, but certain categories of IoT which come under critical services will be left out.

The DoT will formulate necessary traffic management practices after recommendations from Trai. Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan had earlier said that in the age of autonomous vehicles and digitised healthcare through sensors etc, certain kinds of traffic need to be prioritised. The DoT will form a committee to identify critical services and come with a separate regime for such services.

Trai had already barred telecom operators from offering differential pricing of data, putting an end to Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero. The regulator had recommended a change in the licence conditions to restrict any form of discrimination in Internet access based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment. 

In its recommendations, Trai had proposed that service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement or contract with anybody that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment.

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