Trai seeks views on setting up multi-stakeholder body for net neutrality

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday floated a consultation paper seeking stakeholders’ views on setting up a multi-stakeholder body for net neutrality. It also sought views on what should be the guiding principles and structure of governance of the body.

Last year, Trai Chairman R S Sharma had hinted that the regulator would come out with a new round of consultations on compliance of net neutrality rules.

"The objective of this consultation paper is to deliberate the issues related to traffic management practices and the multi-stakeholder body... It discusses about establishment of a framework to formulate traffic management practices. The paper also discusses about the issues related to composition, function, governance structure of [the] body,” Trai said.

The discussion paper is limited to issues on which additional recommendation were sought by the Telecom Department in a letter in July 2018, Trai said, adding that it had no intention to revisit its principles on Net Neutrality and broad approach recommended earlier.

Trai said comments on issues raised in the consultation paper should be submitted by January 30 and counter comments by February 13, 2020.

In its earlier recommendations on net neutrality — in February, 2016, and November, 2017 – had said licensing terms should be amplified to provide explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in internet access based on the content being accessed, the protocols being used or the user equipment being deployed. Content included all content, applications, services and data, including end-point information that can be accessed or transmitted over the internet. 

Discrimination would include any form of discrimination, restriction or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds.

Trai had also said service providers should be restricted from entering into agreements or contracts with any person, natural or legal, that results in discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment.

Trai had barred platforms like Facebook's Internet.Org and Airtel Zero that allowed free access to select websites, to check “gate-keeping” in cyber space. Based on TRAI recommendations, the Telecom Commission in 2018 approved net neutrality rules prohibiting service providers from discriminating against Internet content and services.

Some mission critical applications or services like remote surgery and autonomous cars will, however, be kept out of the purview of the net neutrality framework.

While clearing the net neutrality rules, DoT had sought additional recommendations from TRAI on necessary Traffic Management Practices (TMPs) and composition, functions, role and responsibilities of the multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement.


On the table

  1. Net neutrality
  2. Traffic management practices
  3. Issues related to composition, function, governance structure of the body

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