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DoT Panel Says “The Core Principles of Net Neutrality Must be Adhered to”; Recommendations on Free & Fair Internet Made Public

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TRAI Says Airtel Zero & Internet.Org Are Against Net Neutrality, Violate Free Internet

Department of Telecom (DoT) had formulated a special committee to understand the impact of anti-net neutrality plans formulated by some telecom companies. The recommendations of the committee led by AK Bhargava are now public.

The committee has strongly recommended that Net Neutrality principles should be upheld, and Internet should be free and fair from any enforced manipulation. They have said, “the core principles of Net Neutrality must be adhered to..

The committee has admitted that net neutrality, especially in India, is a new concept and a new idea; hence the Government should have an open door policy regarding the same. New questions and new scenarios may emerge in future, due to which the Govt. should establish an ‘oversight process’ to advice on legal and operational framework.

The report said, “National security is paramount, regardless of treatment of Net Neutrality.”

Some Important highlights from the report:

On Zero Rating Apps and Traffic Prioritization by Telecom Companies: The committee has come out strongly against any traffic management practice done by telecom companies to give higher priority to certain apps or services. The report specifically said, “Improper (Paid or otherwise) Prioritization may not be permitted.. Unreasonable traffic management, exploitative or anti-competitive in nature may not be permitted.”

– The committee has observed that giving preferences to certain services is against net neutrality principles, even if its done for a public purpose (certainly a hint towards Facebook’s Internet.org project). The report commented, “Content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as gatekeepers and use network operations to extract value in violation of core principles of Net Neutrality, even if it is for an ostensible public purpose.”

– The committee has come down heavily on telecom companies, which are offering plans which violate Net Neutrality. They commented, “TRAI may examine the tariff filings made by TSPs/ISPs to determine whether the tariff plan conforms to the principles of Net Neutrality.”

– The committee has recommended a clause in the licensing agreements of telecom companies, wherein it mandates protection and maintenance of Net Neutrality principles in everything they do. The committee said, “The guidelines can describe the principles and conditions of Net Neutrality in detail and provide applicable criteria to test any violation of the principles of Net Neutrality.”

– Additionally, the committee has recommended that a new legal framework be devised, keeping in mind the principles of Net Neutrality. “New legislation, whenever planned for replacing the existing legal framework, must incorporate principles of Net Neutrality”

– On the issue of OTT players, the committee has recommended that local calls via OTT and local calls via telecom players should be treated as same, and thus both should be included within the regulatory framework. The committee has strongly suggested that “OTT application services have been traditionally available in the market for some time and such services enhance consumer welfare and increase productivity. Therefore, such services should be actively encouraged and any impediments in expansion and growth of OTT application services should be removed.”

– On the issue of International VoIP, the committee has suggested that a ‘liberal approach may be adopted.’

The committee has also emphasized on the importance of building infrastructure and innovation in the industry, and called for innovators and entrepreneurs to come up with solutions. As per the recommendations, a true Net Neutrality standard can only be implemented, once all citizens have access to “Affordable Broadband”, “Quality Broadband” and “Universal Broadband”.

Here is the 111 page “Net Neutrality DoT Committe report”

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