Trai to Soon Start Consultation on Traffic Management Practices for Net Neutrality

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will soon start consultation on recommending a framework for traffic management practices as well as structure and nuances of a multi-stakeholder body outlined in the net neutrality principles. According to a senior Trai official, the discussion paper to tackle the twin aspects is likely to be brought out in about a month’s time, and the Trai intends to follow the consultative process before finalising its views on the issue. The net neutrality principles which were recently approved by the telecom department – prohibit service providers from discriminating against internet content and services by blocking, throttling or according to preferential higher speeds.

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Simply put, this means that entire internet traffic should be available to everyone on equal terms without any discrimination, and service providers cannot indulge in practices such as throttling any web traffic or providing fast lanes for specific content.

The Telecom Commission, the apex decision-making body at the telecom department, had approved the implementation of net neutrality with slight modifications to Trai’s past suggestion, and has now approached the regulator “to recommend necessary traffic management practices (TMPs) for consideration of the DoT”.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has also asked the Trai to “recommend the composition, functions, role and responsibilities of the multi-stakeholder body” that will play an advisory role and assist the department on monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality rules.

The Trai official said to PTI the regulator would recommend the framework for implementation of internet traffic management practices to comply with net neutrality rules.

On the multi-stakeholder body, the official said that this might also focus on examining special applications and exceptions with regard to the net neutrality rules, and will offer its suggestions to the telecom department. The regulator will suggest the nuances of the proposed body, such as composition, structure, and other aspects, the official said.

In its recommendations on net neutrality issued in November 2017, Trai had proposed that in addition to direct monitoring and enforcement actions, there should be a “collaborative mechanism to deepen the knowledge of various stakeholders on issues relating to traffic management, implementation of exceptions, implementation of transparency measures and other relevant aspects”.

It had mooted that such a collaborative mechanism may be established in the form of a multi-stakeholder body comprising members representing different categories of telecom operators, internet service providers, large and small content providers, representatives from research and academia, civil society organisations and consumer representatives.

“The body would be tasked with the responsibility of developing technical standards pertaining to monitoring of TMPs and enforcement of the principles on non-discriminatory treatment and making appropriate recommendations…,” Trai had said in its recommendations late last year.

After approving the net neutrality norms, the DoT recently amended licence rules by incorporating clauses related to net neutrality. It has also said that the necessary traffic management practices shall be formulated by DoT, after recommendations of Trai.

The department said that monitoring and enforcement functions would rest with itself, and that proposed multi-stakeholder body will play an advisory role.

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