No 'Pai-day' for India: nation to adopt strict network neutrality

All content is created equal, regulator rules

India has decided to implement a formal Internet neutrality regime.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) responded to a lively year-long debate with a statement opposing any “discriminatory treatment” of Internet data.

TRAI said its recommendations were designed to prevent ISPs in the country from either throttling or blocking content to punish demanding providers like Netflix. The regulator has also opposed giving content providers preferential treatment if they're willing to pay carriers.

Deals such as Netflix's 2014 interconnection contracts with first Comcast and then Verizon would be both illegal and unnecessary in India.

In 2015, America's Federal Communications Commission promulgated its neutrality charter – but this has since been reversed by Trump-appointed boss Ajit Pai.

The debate in India kicked off in 2016 when TRAI halted discriminatory data tariffs, partly in response to lobbying by Facebook, and kicked off its inquiry into neutrality.

TRAI chair RS Sharma said the rules upheld the “core principles of net neutrality, non-discriminatory treatment of all content, treating internet as an open platform”.

Carriers are reported to be playing their cards close for now, with the only strong comment coming from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

COAI complained that over-the-top (OTT) mobile applications like Skype have eroded its members revenue, and said TRAI should have taken a light-touch approach.

As is noted in the cover letter to the report [PDF], OTT services are on TRAI's future work program. The recommendations can be downloaded here. ®

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