As sectoral regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
(Trai) prepares to come out with recommendations on net neutrality, with reports suggesting that it may allow users to avail of some services like financial transactions on priority, the debate over the whole issue is likely to erupt again.
The regulator is likely to come out with its recommendations on the subject by December 15, reports said.
According to people in the telecom industry, the regulator needs to clearly define what kind of financial and critical services should be allowed to be accorded priority and what should be the mechanism to deliver these services to the consumers.
One telecom company executive told Business Standard
on the condition of anonymity that the term financial services
was very big and Trai
needed to define what facilities were critical in that. The executive added that while giving priority, Trai
also needed to clarify what should be the mode — through the internet, SMS or any other form.
Another executive from a different telco said operators need to make changes in their networks to manage such services and it has to be seen what kind of costs are accrued to them.
The whole debate over net neutrality
erupted in 2015 when Trai
came out with a consultation paper on a regulatory framework for over-the-top services. One of the questions in the paper was whether telecom service providers should be allowed to price data differentially based on the content.
Some of the operators were offering free services through their tie-ups with content providers. Facebook's 'Free Basics' and Airtel Zero
were particularly highlighted by net neutrality
activists and the services were later banned by the regulator.
The activists believe that the internet should not be regulated based on content and everybody should get equal rights. However, telecom operators say that as the traffic is going through their infrastructure, for which they have spent crores of rupees, they need to get some control to manage the traffic. The telcos, however, say they will not throttle the internet based on content.
The telecom industry
had earlier highlighted their case when over-the-top players like WhatsApp
and Skype, among others, started offering voice services. The telcos
wanted these players to be regulated as both were competing for the same set of services.