Thursday, 9 June 2016

Net Neutrality in Focus once again

The telecom industry in India has grown tremendously, both in terms of penetration as well as connectivity. Today, India is one of the fastest growing information and communication technologies markets in the world, fuelled largely by the cellular mobile revolution. Starting from a few million connections in 1997, we now have more than a billion connections, with 97.5% of them being wireless subscribers. With this, the overall teledensity in India at the end of 2015 stood at 81.83%.
India has also witnessed tremendous growth in terms of the total number of Internet users. At the end of December 2015, we had over 331 million Internet subscribers in the country, of which about 94% (over 311 million) were wireless Internet users.
The number of broadband users has also been increasing steadily over the years. At present, India has approximately 136.5 million broadband subscribers, a figure that is expected to rise significantly in the coming years, particularly in light of the Government's ‘Digital India’ initiative. 
While TSPs must cater to the increasing demand by increasing the investment in network infrastructure, they could also use traffic management tools to deal with problems of congestion on the network. This has resulted in new debates about the appropriateness of the tools and policies that may be used by TSPs for traffic management and the potential for abuse by TSPs for discriminatory or anti-competitive purposes.
This pre-consultation paper on Net Neutrality released by TRAI on 30 May is an attempt to identify the relevant issues in these areas, which will help TRAI in formulating its views on the way forward for policy or regulatory interventions. This is based on DoT seeking recommendations of TRAI on the subject of net neutrality, including traffic management techniques; the economic, security and privacy aspects of OTT services; and other relevant areas covered in TRAI’s consultation paper dated 27th March 2015.
There are several definitions of Net Neutrality (NN). The term “network neutrality” generally refers to the principle that TSPs must treat all Internet traffic on an equal basis, without regard to the type, origin, or destination of the content or the means of its transmission. It therefore implies that all points in a network should be able to seamlessly connect to all other points, without any discrimination by the TSP on aspects of speed, access or price. Adherence to this principle of net neutrality is arguably necessary for maintaining the open and non-discriminatory character of the Internet, features that are responsible for the phenomenal growth of the Internet in the past decades.
There is another Consultation Paper issued to explore model(s) that could achieve the benefits of offering free data while avoiding the ingenuity that the Differential Tariff Regulation is meant to prevent. The model should facilitate the un-connected and under-connected consumer to become better connected and should not allow any TSP or large company playing a gatekeeper or biased role. The model should use the principles of open, transparent and equal access to consumer services by all consumers and all businesses.
The growth of smart phones, along with improvements in mobile infrastructure, has boosted the growth of m Commerce in many parts of the world. The development of m Wallets and m Payment systems is seen as a key development for the m Commerce sector and beyond. New communication and software developments are making it increasingly possible for retailers to offer a seamless shopping experience using the available retail channels, such as mobile internet devices, computers, bricks and mortar stores, television, radio, direct mail, catalogues and so on.
TRAI has asked for the comments from the stakeholders on Net Neutrality by 21 June 2016.


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