Net Neutrality buzz is back: DoT releases report

NEW DELHI: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has released its final report on Net Neutrality.

The panel on Net Neutrality has recommended that “user rights on the Internet need to be ensured so that Telecom Service Providers/Internet Service Providers (TSPs/ISPs) do not restrict the ability of the user to send, receive, display, use, post any legal content, application or service on the Internet, or restrict any kind of lawful Internet activity or use.”

Here are some highlights of the report:

· DoT says the obligatory words – that principles of net neutrality must be adhered to. It also argues that the need for affordable access and investment in broadband infrastructure are not counter-posed against the core principles of net neutrality.

· DoT highlights regulatory arbitrage – VoIP services bypass the existing licensing and regulatory regime resulting in a non-level playing field between telcos and OTT voice providers. It also mentions that pricing arbitrage of OTT domestic voice services (they are currently largely free) may impact the pace of telecom infrastructure growth.

· It recommends that, for domestic calls, telcos and OTTs may be subjected to similar regulation for the present. The nature of regulatory similarity, the calibration of regulatory response and its phasing can be appropriately determined after public consultations and TRAI’s recommendations on this subject.

· DoT has analysed the legislation and implementation of net neutrality in international markets, it cites the EU call for a level playing field between OTT voice providers and telcos.

· DoT recommends that TRAI should examine the tariff filings made by telcos to determine if the tariff plans (including zero-rating plans such as Airtel Zero) conform to the principles of net neutrality. Legitimate traffic management practices may however be allowed. But on Internet.org, pioneered by Facebook and of which RCOM is a partner, DoT’s view is that content gatekeepers cannot be permitted to extract value, and hence even if it is for an ostensibly public purpose, it should be discouraged.

· Recommends inter-ministerial consultations for security compliance from OTT service providers. Further that security considerations will over-ride net-neutrality principles.

Also read: GSMA says permit flexibility to differentiate between traffic

Also Read: Spectrum is the root cause: IAMAI

Also Read: OTT-Telco face-off in India over net neutrality

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