In a bold but welcome move, the department of telecommunications gave the green light to net neutrality in India. The ruling, which comes into effect almost immediately, is all set to make India one of the most progressive nations when it comes to free and fair internet access.
In contrast, the US is still embroiled in a bitter battle for net neutrality after American regulators impelled to roll back free access regulations introduced in the Obama era.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), following a meeting with an inter-ministerial telecom committee, recommended net neutrality regulations after a long-drawn campaign for free and fair internet. In a statement issued to TOI, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan made it clear that any deviation and violation of net neutrality rules will be met with stiff penalties.
Net neutrality makes it possible for internet access to be unconstrained and non-discriminatory. The ruling has however made exceptions for new and emerging technologies like self-driving cars or remote diagnostics – pretty much anything that requires above-average internet speeds.
Additionally, TRAI’s recommendation thwarts telecom operators from blocking, slowing down, or giving preferential treatment to online content.
“A light-touch regulatory approach should be adopted so that innovation is not hampered by net neutrality rules. 5G applications will have stringent data communication requirements, such as high reliability or minimal delay."
Rajan S Mathews
Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India
A free, fair and forward-looking policy
What really stands out though is the fact that TRAI’s move ensures a level playing field for all telecom operators. TRAI was earlier accused of being biased and responsible for predatory pricing.
Rajan S Mathews, Director General of the Cellular Operators Association of India, in a statement to ComputerWorld, said: “COAI welcomes the approval, as it is a forward-looking policy that promises to usher India into a new era of digital communications, thereby making the prime minister’s Digital India dream a reality.”
With respect to net neutrality, Mathews said that the association of telcos expressed its support on issues pertaining to non-discriminatory use of the internet, including no blocking, no throttling and adoption of same service-same rules.
COAI however believes that a certain amount of regulation should be adopted to foster development of newer technologies. “A light-touch regulatory approach should be adopted so that innovation is not hampered by net neutrality rules. Many of the 5G applications will have stringent data communication requirements, such as high reliability or minimal delay which require traffic management techniques,” said Mathews.
He added that the association has urged the government to review industry practices with respect to traffic prioritization to foster 5G-enabled applications and eco-system in India.