They Saved the Internet: Net Neutrality Passed in India!

Net Neutrality

In a move to ensure free internet in India, the government has accepted and approved the principle of net neutrality. Without net neutrality, ISPs can charge companies money to speed up their services, and slow down others, but with the laws in place users can access all data they want at the same speed. Once, net neutrality comes into play, they cannot degrade, slow down or grant preferential speeds to any website or online service.

Alongside the net neutrality rules, the highest decision-making body in the Department of Telecommunications also approved new telecom policy - national Digital Communications Policy (NDCP), 2018.

"Any deviations and violations of the rules of net neutrality - which come into effect nearly immediately - will be met with stiff penalties", Aruna Sundarajan, telecom secretary, told TOI. It had observed that Internet of Things, or IoT, as a class of services, should not be excluded from the scope of restriction on non-discriminatory treatment except for certain critical services.

Sundararajan said DoT would identify the critical services and there will be a separate regime for such services in consultation with Trai informally but licenses will be amended immediately to accommodate net neutrality principles. The decision also carries with it the heft of TRAI's authority. This is about the same time our own debates on net neutrality were heating up.

One crude example is DTH services - customers pay for channels that come in packages and can be customised or upgraded using higher subscription packages. The most visible casualty was Facebook's Free Basics service, which offered Indians free access to a limited number of websites.

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The government of India approved net neutrality in India and the whole country, especially ardent net users are celebrating it enthusiastically.

Internet service providers are now expected to treat all internet traffic equally, without any discrimination regarding content. This should particularly feel reassuring after United States, the world's biggest internet economy and home of major tech companies, seems undecided on the future of net neutrality.

Some mission-critical services like autonomous cars, content delivery network (CDN), and remote surgery are out of the framework of TRAI.

Even Facebook's Internet.org plan of providing free services was banned in 2016 since it was indirectly promoting zero rating which could have acted as an advantage over local companies. "Therefore, India must have ease of doing business and enabling policy environment", she said.

But telecom companies believe that the rules could hamper innovation. This has ultimately led to a reversal of pro-Net Neutrality rules. The DoT will also be framing a policy on net neutrality traffic management.

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