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Net Neutrality

All traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers.

Net Neutrality

About Net Neutrality

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the Internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online. This is the definition of an open Internet.

Net Neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that Internet service providers should provide us with open networks — and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn't decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn't be concerned with the content you view or post online.Those advocating Net neutrality believe all bits of data are equal, and, therefore, should not be discriminated on the basis of content, site or user. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started.

Telecom operators/ISPs are access services providers, and can control either how much you access, what you access, how fast you access and how much you pay to access content and services on the Internet.

It’s important for access to knowledge, services and free speech, as well as freedom and ease of doing business online, for this access to be neutral:

All sites must be equally accessible

  • The same access speed at the telco/ISP level for each (independent of telco selection)
  • The same data cost for access to each site (per KB/MB).
  • This means, Net Neutrality is about:
    1. No telecom-style licensing of Internet companies (see this and this)
    2. No gateways censorship or selection
    3. No speeding up of specific websites (that may or may not pay telcos)
    4. No “zero rating” or making some sites free over others

Source : Consultation Paper On Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services/ Internet services and Net Neutrality : Release date: 27th March, 2015. Full version.

Net neutrality - Indian consultations

In the Indian context, there have been multiple consultations on the issue of net neutrality and related aspects. The following are the various initiatives taken by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI or Authority) as well as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on the subject.

Principle of Non-Discriminatory Treatment of Content

The term "net neutrality" was coined to represent the idea that "a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites and platforms equally".

The basic design principles that have been instrumental to the development of the Internet were noted by the Authority in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariff for Data Service Regulations, 2016. They are summarized below :

  • End-to-end design principle: The end-to-end principle suggests that the “intelligence” in a network should be located at the ends of the system. The communications protocols themselves (the “pipes” through which the information flows) should be as simple and general as possible and should not interfere with the traffic flow.
  • Adoption of universal network protocols: The use of open protocols developed collaboratively by users has enabled private networks to communicate with each other through standard packets and flow rate. This has led to the creation of the decentralized architecture of the Internet.
  • Transit and peering arrangements: In the physical infrastructure enabling the Internet, service providers are connected with each other and with Internet backbone systems through a web of transit and peering arrangements.
  • Other governing principles: Heterogeneity support principle; Robustness and adaptability principle among others.

Although the above-mentioned design features have been an essential part of the development of the Internet architecture, as technology evolves, some of these features are also undergoing a change.

In spirit, the idea that an Internet service provider should treat all content, sites and platforms equally is already encapsulated in the licensing terms and conditions applicable to service providers in India.

TRAIs Recommendations On Net Neutrality document recommends that T he Authority recommends that the terms of various license agreements governing the provision of Internet services in India (UL, VNO license, UASL and CMTS) be a mended in order to incorporate the principles of non - discriminatory treatment of content by Internet Access Services along with the appropriate exclusions and exceptions.

Source : TRAIs Recommendations On Net Neutrality

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