The Department of Telecom’s panel on Net Neutrality has apparently disallowed Zero Rating services and has recommended that any prioritization of Internet traffic should be banned.

control-mobile-phone-with-gestures

The six-member committee report along with telecom regulator’s recommendation will form the final basis of the government’s policy on net neutrality.

Recommendations ranged from the need to ensure that ISPs/TSPs do not restrict access in any way or give certain services an unfair advantage, to encouraging OTT services.

The panel’s view should come as a serious blow to telcos in India that have been lobbying for Zero Rating services and to regulate OTT services such as WhatsApp and Skype.

Overall, the committee has said that the policy on net neutrality should also promote competition and encourage startup culture in India.

Telcos in India were trying to regulate OTT services, claiming that they were losing revenues to these services which offered free calling and messaging over the Internet.

The panel however did mention that while telcos should be disallowed from using traffic management as a way to slow down certain content, reasonable and legitimate traffic management can be allowed, provided that it doesn’t violate the net neutrality norms.

The DoT committee apparently met 45 organizations including Facebook, Google, Flipkart, Amazon, Paytm, Viber and Skype, telecom operators and various public interest groups in order to built its report.

The report is a stark contrast to TRAI’s recommendation report which supported Zero Rating services and regulation of OTT services under the guise of managing data traffic given the insufficient network infrastructure of the country.

Here’s are the recommendations of the DoT panel on Net Neutrality

OTT Applications

  • There should be a separation of “application layer” from “network layer” as application services are delivered over a licensed network.
  • Specific OTT communication services dealing with messaging should not be interfered with through regulatory instruments.
  • In case of VoIP OTT communication services, there exists a regulatory arbitrage wherein such services also bypass the existing licensing and regulatory regime creating a non-level playing field between TSPs and OTT providers both competing for the same service provision.
  • The existence of a pricing arbitrage in VoIP OTT communication services requires a graduated and calibrated public policy response.
  • For OTT application services, there is no case for prescribing regulatory oversight similar to conventional communication services.

Traffic Management:

  • TSPs/ISPs should make adequate disclosures to the users about their traffic management policies, tools and intervention practices to maintain transparency and allow users to make informed choices
  • Unreasonable traffic management, exploitative or anti-competitive in nature may not be permitted.
  • In general, for legitimate network management, application-agnostic control may be used. However, application-specific control within the “Internet traffic” class may not be permitted.
  • Traffic management practices like DPI should not be used for unlawful access to the type and contents of an application in an IP packet.
  • Improper (Paid or otherwise) Prioritization may not be permitted
  • Application-agnostic congestion control being a legitimate requirement cannot be considered to be against Net Neutrality. However application-specific control within the “Internet traffic” class may be against the principles of Net Neutrality.
  • Mechanism to minimize frivolous complaints will be desirable.