TRAI’s new net neutrality paper tackles WhatsApp, TSP throttling

TRAI has released yet another consultation paper on net neutrality, this time seeking answers to questions related to the definition of the term and regulation for OTT apps. Citizens can submit their views on the issue till June 21.

Net neutrality has been a hot button topic in India for a while now. TRAI had addressed a few aspects of the issue though its verdict on differential pricing and is now looking to tackle the other thorny facets of the problem. Its first question asks what the core principles of the term are in the Indian context and what issues should be taken into consideration.

Man Field Smartphone

The paper defines net neutrality as a principle which dictates that telecom service providers (TSPs) treat all internet traffic on an equal basis without discriminating or favoring a particular service or website. The issue is complicated by various factors such as the traffic management systems adopted by companies to ensure optimum quality of service.

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For instance, it’s possible a network operator may make adjustments in order to ensure data access across a wide range of consumers during extreme network congestion. However, TRAI mentions that there’s a fine line between fair changes and unreasonable practices like throttling of speeds, blocking of rival apps, preferential treatment to a service over others, and discriminatory tariffs for data services.

The other big question concerns OTT services like WhatsApp and Hike. The paper points out that these apps are not subject to the same regulations as network players. It suggests that this could pose a number of problems related to telephone number management, public safety, and national security. It also talks about the privacy of individuals being under threat due to a lack of legal framework.