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TRAI Chief Pitches For Net Neutrality In App Stores, Devices & Platforms

TRAI Chief Pitches For Net Neutrality In App Stores, Devices & Platforms

TRAI chief terms net neutrality as a “new frontier” to do away with arbitrary controls

Says, neutrality important to ensure devices and platforms don’t emerge as “gatekeepers”

TRAI had on September 22 recommended to set up a MSB to ensure that internet service providers in India follow the principles of net neutrality

Outgoing TRAI chief RS Sharma on Monday (September 28) pitched for neutrality of platforms, app stores, operating systems and devices in the lines of the principles being applied to telecom networks. 

Sharma whose tenure ends on Wednesday (September 30) added that crucial aspects of net neutrality will need to be examined and ensured in the digital era.

Terming them as “new frontiers”, Sharma said, neutrality was important to ensure that “new gatekeepers” don’t emerge to exercise arbitrary controls.

“Platforms, Operating Systems, devices…if they are not neutral they can become new gatekeepers…telecom service providers will not exhibit this behaviour because of net neutrality principles,” he said.

Speaking to PTI, Sharma said smartphones and devices are the medium to access software, operating systems and app stores.

TRAI had on September 22 recommended to set up a multi-stakeholder body (MSB) to ensure that internet service providers in India follow the principles of net neutrality.

The MSB will be set up as an advisory body which would have representatives and stakeholders from all telecom and internet service providers, content providers, researchers from the academic and technical community, as well as the government but Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will still have the authority to punish net neutrality violations, the regulator had suggested.

Earlier, the government had accepted TRAI’s recommendations on net neutrality in telecom networks with slight modifications to the regulator’s suggestion and had then approached it for additional views on nuances like traffic management practices (TMPs) and multi-stakeholder body.

What Is Net Neutrality And Why Does It Matter?

Net neutrality is a principle that guarantees equal and non-discriminatory access to all Internet services without any discrimination on the basis of tariffs or speed. Backers of net neutrality have demanded against having any traffic management practices, except in cases of emergencies, such as natural disasters.

As all the major internet service providers in India, except Jio, battle unprecedented losses, the need to define rules around internet traffic management, the demand for net neutrality has intensified. Following the launch of Facebook Basics platform, Net Neutrality had instigated a national campaign across India. Supporters of net neutrality had argued that Facebook’s service violated the principles of free and open internet. 

Net Neutrality could be understood as to how a phone company should not decide who we can call and not call, similarly, an internet service provider should not be able to meddle with the sites we can access or not access. It’s the idea of considering all bits of data are equal and thus ISPs should not have the power to discriminate against certain companies or content or user. 

As per the recent TRAI report, India has a total of 665.31 Mn internet subscribers, out of which, wired internet subscribers are 21.6 Mn and wireless internet subscribers are 643.6 Mn. Also, a 2019 Google report found that on average India adds 40 Mn internet users on a Y-o-Y basis, which is among the fastest in the world. “An Indian subscriber is using an average 8GB per month mobile data usage which has reached levels of developed markets,” the report added.