TRAI invites views on fresh consultation paper issued on net neutrality

TRAI, the regulatory authority of India, has sought the views of all the players in the Telecommunication sector to device a broad, nondiscriminatory access to the web. It is part of a comprehensive debate on net neutrality which has become a hot debate between content providers and telecom service providers.

TRAI has also invited views from the public on the issue of net neutrality. The exercise is being done to ensure that telecom operators do not manipulate net speed and give preferential treatment to any particular website. The issue cropped just after the launch of Facebook Free Basics which ensured no charge is levied for accessing some select sites. After careful deliberation, TRAI had banned the Free Basic plan. However, TRAI has to tread a delicate path to ensure the growth of the telecom sectors and also guaranteeing the rights of the consumer.

Another major issue which needs to be sorted out is about the regulation of domestic calls on Web-based apps like Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber. There is a pending proposal to place them at par with services being offered by telecom operators. However, the plan is facing stiff resistance from industry bodies and some sections of civil society. Besides causing enormous loss to the regular call service providers, VOIP calls are fraught with security implications since it is the most favored means of communication among various terror groups. The attackers who carried out the Mumbai Terror attacks were all communicating with their masters in Pakistan with VOIP phones.

TRAI in a paper dated 30 May 2016 has sought an opinion about the definition of net neutrality, traffic management practices, and unrestricted access to the web with transparency, user privacy, and national security. Already telecom operators use a variety of measures to ensure safety, confidentiality, and efficiency. However, there is a need to monitor these practices to make sure that it is not utilized in a discriminatory way.

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