Net Neutrality: TRAI Releases Consultation Paper, Gives February 15 Deadline for Responses

On Wednesday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its consultation paper on net neutrality, asking for comments from stakeholders by February 15, and counter-comments by February 28. These should be mailed to Asit Kadayan, Advisor (QoS) TRAI on the email address [email protected]

Net Neutrality: TRAI Releases Consultation Paper, Gives February 15 Deadline for ResponsesAs noted in this paper, TRAI had started a pre-consultation on Net Neutrality in 2016 – a detailed timeline shows how the work actually started in 2015, with the creation of a DoT committee. This was followed by a consultation for regulatory framework on OTT services, and the committees report followed in May 2015.

After that, the focus shifted to differential pricing for data services, against which there was regulation in February 2016.

Now, the regulator is readying to take on the bigger question of net neutrality. It notes the complexity of the task at hand in the consultation paper.

In view of the complexity of the subject of NN, the Authority decided to undertake a two-stage consultation process. The first stage, of pre-consultation, was an attempt to identify the relevant issues in all the areas on which the DoT had sought TRAI’s recommendations. In this next stage, the Authority has considered all the relevant issues identified during the pre-consultation process and the preliminary inputs gathered from stakeholders on those issues. The purpose of this second stage of consultation is to proceed towards the formulation of final views on policy or regulatory interventions, where required, on the subject of NN.

In the paper, it outlines ideas such as traffic management, the core principles of net neutrality, transparency, and how to effectively create policy to address these issues. The consultation paper ends with 14 questions to be answered and overall reads like a technical document, although there is a lot of scope at this point for interpretations.

Some of the key questions include asking what the principles for non-discriminatory access should be in the Indian context, how Internet traffic should be defined, and what could be reasonable traffic management practices, and also what would be defined as non-reasonable.

The consultation paper also asks questions about which bodies should be responsible for monitoring net neutrality, and what powers this body should be given to enforce net neutrality.

As of now, there’s more than a month to properly understand the paper and respond to TRAI, and hopefully this process will see a lot of user feedback, just as the decision on differential pricing did.

Aakash Ghosh

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