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TRAI kicks off consultation process on net neutrality

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a consultation paper on the issue of net neutrality soliciting stakeholders’ views on a wide range of issues.

The purpose of this stage of consultation is to proceed to final views on policy or regulatory interventions, where required, on the issue of net neutrality.

In March 2016, the DoT had sought TRAI’s recommendations on issues relating to net neutrality. In view of the complexity of the issue, the authority decided to undertake a two-stage consultation process on net neutrality.

The first stage of pre-consultation was meant to identify the relevant issues in all the areas on which the DoT had sought TRAI’s recommendations and for which a pre-consultation paper was released in May 2016.

In the second stage, TRAI has considered all the relevant issues identified during the pre-consultation process and the preliminary inputs gathered from stakeholders on these issues.

Stakeholders have been asked to submit their written comments on the issues raised in the consultation paper by 15 February. Counter-comments, if any, may be sent to the authority by 28 February.

The authority said that there is no universal approach or global consensus on the best approach to be followed on the issue of net neutrality.

TRAI further said that there are variations in requirements from one country to another in terms of their level of development, adoption of the internet, state of content business and the regulatory, licensing and legal frameworks within which they operate.

The level of market competition among telecom service providers (TSPs) providing internet access services is also a key aspect. All these factors influence the manner in which a country deals with similar issues.

The authority said that this consultation process is an attempt to rethink the first principles of traffic management by TSPs and the contours of reasonableness so as to arrive at an understanding of the principles that the stakeholders may want to adopt.

TRAI said that it is important to deliberate on important issues like traffic management practices, denying the core principles of net neutrality, transparency requirements, monitoring framework and policy/regulatory instruments before taking a position in this regard.

The authority has fleshed out the above issues in more detail and proposed its formulation for a regulatory approach that can be adopted in each case.

The goal, TRAI said, is to gather relevant feedback from all categories of stakeholders on the issues and its proposals on them.