Why TRAI Left Out ‘Specialised Services’ From Net Neutrality Ambit

Internet providers have to disclose when they managed traffic and why and what was the impact on the end user.

3 min read
Why TRAI Left Out ‘Specialised Services’ From Net Neutrality Ambit

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India’s telecom regulator, in its recommendations on net neutrality released on 29 November, suggested exemptions only for services so critical that they have to be excluded, according to chairman RS Sharma.

There are some services that use internet protocols but do not use public internet, Sharma told BloombergQuint in an interview.

Public internet is on a “best-effort basis” and certain services with “quality of service” specification have to be left out, Sharma said.

To simplify, best-effort delivery is a network service that does not provide any guarantee that the data will be delivered, neither does it guarantee a certain quality of data.

For instance, a postal service gives a pre-emptive date of delivery but does not guarantee delivery on the same day. However, there are some services where quality of service is essential and hence are best kept out of the purview of net neutrality, Sharma said, drawing a parallel to an ambulance being allowed to pass through in case of emergency.

Remote surgery, autonomous vehicles and enterprise-wired networks created through leased lines are some examples where quality of service is crucial.

Sharma said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has made “pragmatic and appropriate” exceptions in its recommendations for net neutrality that was submitted to the Department of Telecommunications earlier today.

The overall goal still remains that the consumer must have the choice to access any content, and internet providers should not influence those choices.
RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI

What About Traffic Management?

In its reccommendations, TRAI also suggested that internet access service providers take “reasonable” measures for managing traffic.

Sharma said that internet providers are entitled to traffic management since they are ultimately the ones running the network. However, traffic management should be “transparent, transitional and proportionate”, he explained.

Traffic management will be acceptable in cases such as a cyber attack when the provider may take adequate steps to ensure security, or in emergency situations when a “fast-lane” may be needed, according to Sharma.

In any case, internet providers have to fully disclose when they managed traffic, why they did so and what was the impact on the end user.


Will Telecom Department Define Its Own ‘Specialised Services’?

Yes, said Sharma, but that has to be within the criteria laid down by the TRAI.

Specialised services shouldn’t be a substitute for internet services. One shouldn’t provide fast lanes in the garb of specialised services,
RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI

Sharma added services which come into play in the future are likely to be the ones that the DOT may specify as specialised services. What falls under its purview will depend on how technology evolves in the future, Sharma added.

Is This The Final Say On Net Neutrality?

No. TRAI has only submitted its recommendations on net neutrality as per instructions from the Department of Telecom. It is now up to the DOT to take a final call on whether they will accept the recommendations, Sharma explained.

He added that the regulator will continue to regulate the elements it holds the powers on under the TRAI Act.

(This article was originally published on BloombergQuint)

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