TRAI paper seeks net neutrality definition, suggests WhatsApp regulation

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Now that the issue of Free Basics has been done and dusted with, TRAI has come out with another net neutrality paper concerned with other aspects surrounding the topic. The pre-consultation paper asks 6 questions related to 3 broad areas namely the principles behind the term, TSP traffic management, and rules for OTT services like WhatsApp.

TRAI defines net neutrality as a principle which demands TSPs treat all internet traffic devoid of any negative or positive bias without giving any heed to what it’s being used for. Keeping this in mind, it asks what the core principles of the matter are in the Indian context and what key issues should be considered in order to ensure its values are not under attack.

The pre-consultation paper then goes on to explore the thorny topic of operator traffic management. While it acknowledges that such practices may sometimes be necessary to guarantee optimum data access during times of heavy traffic, it also makes it clear that these supervisions should not be abused to wrongly interfere with internet browsing.

Also Read: Airtel wants to evade net neutrality rules with new video platform

TRAI’s list of unreasonable behavior includes blocking apps or websites, throttling internet speeds, favoring one service over another, anti-competitive tariff for data services, and inspecting the contents of data packets. Its accompanying question asks what reasonable traffic management practices should be allowed and in what way could they be misused.

Finally, TRAI has gone back to subject of regulating OTT services like WhatsApp or Viber. To recall, it had discussed the topic in relation to net neutrality earlier as well. This time round, it throws up the concern that these apps could pose a threat to individual privacy and national security due to a lack of a legal framework.

TRAI also points out that these OTT tools do not have to deal with the same regulations which network brands have to follow when it comes to voice and messaging services. If passed, the government intervention will probably not be received too well by consumers or app developers since it could lead to VoIP services being charged separately.

You can submit your views on TRAI’s net neutrality paper until June 21.