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DoT Issues Direction for Licence Amendment to Implement Net Neutrality

The telecom department has amended licence rules by incorporating clauses related to net neutrality which bar service providers from discriminating against internet content and services by blocking, throttling or granting preferential higher speeds.

A licence amendment note of DoT directing its various licensing division said that the government is committed to the fundamental principles and concepts of net neutrality.

“Internet access services, therefore, need to be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination, restriction or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds of treatment to any content,” the note said.

The telecom department has mentioned to keep critical internet of things services, which shall be identified by DoT, to be excluded from the restrictions of net neutrality.

The amendments are to be issued by division managing particular licences.

The new amendment states that a telecom licence holder providing internet access service shall “not engage in any discriminatory treatment of content, including based on sender or receiver, the protocols being used in or the user equipment”.

The amendment prohibits from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract “by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal that has the effect of discriminatory treatment of content”.

According to the note, the amendments will include specific points around principle of non-discriminatory treatment, definition of specialised services and reasonable traffic management and other exceptions.

The monitoring and enforcement functions with respect to net neutrality will rest with DoT, the note said.

The apex decision making body at the Department of Telecom, the Telecom Commission, had approved implementation of net neutrality as suggested by the sector regulator Trai with slight modification on July 11.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended restrictions on service providers from entering into agreements which lead to discriminatory treatment of content on the internet.

Trai had favoured tweaking of licensing norms for players to ensure “explicit restrictions” on discrimination in internet access, based on content.

The DoT has to set up a multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality comprising government representatives, IoT providers, telecom operators, civil society members and consumer organisations.

The DoT will seek recommendations from TRAI on traffic management for critical services. – PTI

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