The DoT committee seemed to agree with the telecom operators’ stance that usage of data packs for making calls is outside the regulatory regime, or, in other words, semi-illegal. The government panel has suggested regulation only for internet application that provide communication services like telecom operators offer.
The report has specifically highlighted that TSPs/ISPs should not restrict the ability of the user to send, receive, display, use, post any legal content, application or service on the Internet, or restrict any kind of lawful Internet activity or use to ensure the user’s right on the Internet is upheld. “Therefore, such services should be actively encouraged and any impediments in expansion and growth of OTT application services (such as e-commerce, radio taxis and YouTube) should be removed”, it says.
Yet, it has said other communication services offered by them dealing with messaging should not be interfered with through regulation.
In the case of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) OTT communication services, the government report says that there is already a “regulatory arbitrage” in existence and that these services are bypassing “the existing licensing and regulatory regime” and that it “creating a non-level playing field between TSPs and OTT providers both competing for the same service provision”.
However, as of now, this is the direction in which net neutrality in India seems to be moving towards and speaking for myself, I certainly hope that the goals mentioned in the policy are achieved, someday soon.
Google’s facing anti-trust charges in the European Union but the DoT report merely says that Search-Neutrality is important, but is an issue for another time. In a response to critics in India earlier this year, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said net neutrality should not prevent the underprivileged from accessing the Internet.
While the committee did mention that Internet.org, that gave free access to certain websites was not a good thing, Facebook-that promotes Internet.org-said they were all for net neutrality.
Currently, the watchdog follows a policy of forbearance for telecom services where competition is subject to the condition that all tariff plans need to be reported to it.
The DoT also condemns Facebook’s Internet.org – which served content from select sources to mobile users for free – in its original form, as the zero-rating service only hosted content from outlets approved by the social network.
The Committee is of the opinion that a conclusion on whether the tariff plans specifically breach Net Neutrality would have to be seen in the context of the design of the tariff plan and the outcomes it generated.
“The measures to ensure compliance of security related requirements from OTT service providers need to be worked out through inter-ministerial consultations”, the report said.
Well, considering the fact that the recommendations must make their way through the formidable labyrinth of Indian bureaucracy and would act only as a basis for TRAI’s own report to the Government, some changes in the final policy on the topic are to be expected. We welcome the Department of Telecom’s engagement and consultation process and are committed to working with all stakeholders to overcome the infrastructure, affordability and social barriers that exist today and to bring more people in India online.
Facebook strongly supports network neutrality and the DoT Committee’s recognition of the importance of network neutrality in preserving innovation.