TRAI backs Net Neutrality, bars operators from discriminatory pricing of services

TRAI in new regulations on Tuesday has backed Net Neutrality and said that operators shouldn’t show any discrimination in traffic while providing internet access by either blocking or throttling apps, websites, and services or by offering ‘fast lanes’ to others. 

In much-awaited recommendations on Net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has stressed on the principle that internet is and will be an open platform. TRAI last year ruled out differential pricing and now it says “regulate the manner in which the current licensing requirement of unrestricted access to all content on the Internet is implemented and enforced.”

For those who are unaware, discriminatory pricing means charging customers different prices for access to different websites and services. If the newly proposed are recommendations are accepted, ISPs cannot block or throttle any web traffic, be it on computers, laptops or mobile phones, and also offer fast lanes for those who pay for the privilege. However, TRAI has exempted content delivery networks which do not use the public Internet from restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment.

TRAI has also suggested changing of license terms for players to explicitly restrict any form of discrimination in Internet access based on content. Discrimination acts include restriction or interference including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds. It further said that Internet of Things, with exception of critical IoT, would have to follow the restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment.

TRAI however, left it to DoT to decide the ‘specialised services’ that can be exempted from the purview of net neutrality and says that it is allowing carriers or Internet access providers to use some traffic management practices (TMPs) on their networks to ensure quality of services as long as they are transparent and their impact on users is declared.

Trai in the new recommendations says,

The authority recommends that the terms of various license agreements governing the provision of Internet services in India be amended in order to incorporate the principles of non-discriminatory treatment of content by Internet Access Services along with the appropriate exclusions and exceptions.