Govt committed to concept of net neutrality – Manoj Sinha

TRAI Chairman RS Sharma

Telecom minister Manoj Sinha today said the government is committed to the “the fundamental principles and concept of net neutrality” and is studying the recommendations of the telecom regulator in this regard.

The government is keen to ensure “non-discriminatory access to internet,” Sinha added.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had, a month ago, sent recommendations to the government urging it to put in place rules against telecom companies tampering with the Internet.

“TRAI has recommended that Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content,” Sinha said.

“The recommendations of TRAI are being examined by the Government.”

The regulations were brought on following an outcry after an attempt by Bharti Airtel, India’s most profitable telecom company, to charge higher rates if consumers tried to use their data packs for making voice calls.

The outrage led to a citizens’ movement — spearheaded by start-ups and activists — to put pressure on the government to outlaw such attempts in the future.

TRAI’s net neutrality recommendations, if implemented without dilution, will make it practically impossible for telecom operators to favor any particular website, app or service over others whether in return for money, ownership or any other consideration.

A similar agitation is taking place in the US, where various state governments are reported to be readying similar safeguards against manipulation of Internet traffic by telecom companies to push traffic from their own services or those that pay extra money to them.

Telecom companies generally tend to oppose net neutrality laws as they believe that they can generate more money if they are allowed to charge money not only from their customers, but also from websites, apps and other service providers.

At present, any person can set up a website, app or any other Internet-based service and has to pay only the telecom company that is providing connectivity to his server.

Under the model envisaged by telecom companies, developers will have to pay not only their Internet provider, but also all the Internet providers used by all their consumers to ensure that their website or app is not blocked en route.

Telecom companies have also set up their own apps and websites and are keen for Internet users to use these services, instead of those set up by others.