Net Neutrality: Internet to remain free and fair after government approval

Net Neutrality Gets Telecom Commission's Nod, New Telecom Policy Cleared

In a bid to ensure that netizens continue to have free and fair access to the internet, the government recently approved the principles of net neutrality in India.

Net neutrality means service providers have to treat all traffic equally on internet, and keep the charges same on content. So now your Internet provider can not boost the speed of videos on several sites while slowing down video from other video streaming sites.

The Telecom Commission, the apex decision-making body in the telecom ministry, on Wednesday approved Net neutrality by backing the principles of a free and open internet and also cleared the new telecom policy, which could garner investments of over $100 billion by 2022.

"The Telecom Commission today approved net neutrality as recommended by TRAI, except some critical services which will be kept out of its purview", Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters in New Delhi, according to PTI.

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A separate committee has been set up under the Department of Telecom (DoT) to examine what these critical services will be. Services such as autonomous vehicles, healthcare requiring remote diagnostics, and certain categories of financial services will be prioritised over, say, social media or WhatsApp chats, because, in such communication, not even a millisecond can be lost. In the paper Trai stresses on the importance of a broader understanding of net neutrality among authorities and seeks to bring transparency in the way people access internet services.

One crude example is DTH services - customers pay for channels that come in packages and can be customised or upgraded using higher subscription packages.

As for the "non-level playing field" argument, these private telecom companies in question are huge multinationals, and comparing them to the PDO aggregators - who would retail internet to a thousand or more PDOs - is not valid to begin with, but more on that in a bit.

Net neutrality will be monitored by a multi-stakeholder body entity comprising government representatives, telecom operators, Internet of Things providers, civil society members, and consumer organisations.

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In fact, we're finding numerous Lite apps are better than their big brothers and sisters, suggesting that a solution aimed at catering for "the next billion" could really be on to something. The authorities suggest there should be no kind of discrimination or any type of interference in the treatment of online content. Providers are also prohibited from zero content rating. "This should come into force nearly immediately", said telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan. Two companies, Facebook's and Free Basics project, were offering free access to certain internet services in developing nations. "Therefore, India must have ease of doing business and enabling policy environment", she said. Telecom companies in several countries could lobby regulators to put an end to net neutrality.

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

Moreover, Singh said the "horizontal separation of wholesale and retail" is a must if we are to aim for real net neutrality, as it would not allow integration of services with carriage, and actually create a level-playing field.

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