Advocating free data for increased usage, Broadband India Forum on Thursday sought a level playing field between internet/telecom service providers and over-the-top (OTT) communication (content) players. “OTT players need to be brought under the same regulatory regime as the internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom service providers (TSPs),” the forum said in its response to the pre-consultation paper on net neutrality issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on May 30. Also Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAIAlso Read - TRAI's new SMS regulations will prevent spam, fraudulent messages: Here's how
Favoring decision to tie up with content providers be left to service providers and not on the basis of their business case, it said there was no need for ex-ante regulation as there was enough competition and the market was vibrant. Also Read - Starlink satellite broadband service faces challenge in India, Elon Musk led company questioned
“In case of any violation, the regulator can examine tariff plans on a case-by-case basis after hearing the operators,” the forum said in a statement. Seeking a holistic and periodic review of net neutrality and differential pricing, the forum wants the regulator to ensure the same services were treated in a neutral way to protect customers and achieve objectives of the government’s Digital India campaign.
“Our submission is a balanced view of application/content providers and ISPs on the complex and evolving issue of net neutrality,” said the forum which represents diverse stakeholders such as start-ups Blue Town and Airjaldi, which provide rural broadband, international service providers like AT&T, content providers like Facebook and TSPs/ISPs such as Bharti Airtel, Telenor and Vodafone.
“Our definition of net neutrality is no blocking, no throttling, open internet, no improper prioritization, open, easy and non-discriminatory access, recognition of four categories of traffic, equitable regulatory treatment of similar services and permission of zero rating systems,” the forum told TRAI.
It has listed internet traffic in four categories, which place different demands on limited network resources, viz., email and browsing, YouTube, video streaming and movie downloads, specialized services like remote medical diagnosis, disaster management, emergency services, and Voice over IP/Internet Telephony.
“Different traffic management techniques/tools would have to be employed to ensure high quality end user experience without discrimination, as equal is not equitable in this situation,” it contended.
Endorsing the department of telecom’s recommendations on the issue, the forum said core principles of net neutrality should be made part of the license conditions with mutual agreement and the licensor issuing guidelines.
“As net neutrality related cases require expertise, a special cell in DoT should be set up to deal with such cases. In case of violation, the prescribed procedure of two-stage process of review and appeal should be followed to ensure decisions are objective, transparent and fair,” it added.