Net neutrality debate: More transparency needed for ‘specialised’ VoIp and IPTV services

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Following the approval of the Telecom Commission, web service suppliers will be unable to deploy any discriminatory practices, to supply any preferential therapy to any particular services, at any cut-off date.

-Tony Verghese & Arjun Krishnamoorthy

In January 2015, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) constituted a committee on internet neutrality, which submitted its suggestions in May 2015. These included, amongst others, a requirement that Telecom service suppliers observe core rules of internet neutrality. In March 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a session paper referring to the regulatory framework for OTT services, which additionally went into the questions of internet neutrality, and site visitors administration. Following a pre-consultation paper in May 2016 to determine key points concerning internet neutrality, and considering the feedback obtained from the stakeholders, together with Telecom service suppliers who had been in favour of internet neutrality, TRAI issued an in depth session paper in January 2017 that targeted on the necessities for implementing a framework for internet neutrality. Following a collection of open home discussions, TRAI, on November 28, 2017, issued its ‘Recommendations on Net Neutrality’ to DoT.

In July 2018, the Telecom Commission, the best decision-making physique of DoT, accepted the suggestions and has required the licence agreements with service suppliers, to topic these to the suggestions.

Following the approval of the Telecom Commission, web service suppliers will be unable to deploy any discriminatory practices, to supply any preferential therapy to any particular services, at any cut-off date.

The suggestions got down to amend the varied licence agreements and counsel that web service suppliers shouldn’t have interaction in discriminatory therapy of content material. This consists of any discrimination which may be primarily based on sender/receiver, person tools, amongst others. Internet service suppliers are additionally prohibited from coming into into any type of association which may be deemed to be discriminatory in nature. The suggestions outline ‘discriminatory treatment’ to imply any type of discrimination, restriction or interference within the therapy of content material, together with practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or therapy to any content material.

However, however the above, sure services which are provisioned for particular content material, and require a minimal high quality of service, are exempt from the rules on internet neutrality. These ‘specialised services’ embrace any service aside from an ‘internet access service’ and that are optimised to be able to meet particular high quality of service necessities, and embrace any Internet of Things services that fulfill the definition of a ‘specialised service’. TRAI means that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Internet Protocol tv (IPTV) could fall underneath the definition of a ‘specialised service’.

Internet service suppliers could have interaction in discriminatory therapy supplied these fall underneath (a) affordable site visitors administration practices as could also be specified by TRAI occasionally; (b) provision of any emergency services, corresponding to these supplied throughout public emergency; (c) implementation of any courtroom orders or authorities instructions; and (d) measures taken in pursuance of any worldwide treaty or could also be required for preserving the safety of the tools. It is known that DoT could be formulating a coverage setting out the affordable site visitors administration practices.

Following any modification of Telecom licences, any web service supplier not complying with the online neutrality necessities is more likely to have such licence cancelled, and it seems this can be the one technique of enforcement, if not probably one of the best means, given the absence of suggestions on how discriminatory practices could possibly be monitored. Also, extra transparency could also be sought on what would represent a ‘specialised service’, as there’s lack of readability on the definition to make sure there isn’t any misuse of this exception.

While it is a begin within the implementation of the online neutrality framework in India, we have to wait and see how the federal government will go about amending licences to implement the framework, and additionally transparency on the way it intends to manage the services (if any regulation is proposed).

-Verghese is Partner and Krishnamoorthy is Senior Associate, J Sagar Associates. Views are private

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