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Neutrality must for platforms says TRAI chief

Just as principles of net neutrality have been applied to telecom networks, neutrality of platforms, app stores, operating systems, and devices are crucial aspects that will need to be examined and ensured in the digital era, outgoing Trai chief RS Sharma has said.

Sharma termed this as a “new frontier” that merits attention, and emphasised that ‘neutrality’ is important to ensure that devices, operating systems and digital platforms don’t emerge as “new gatekeepers” or exercise arbitrary controls. “Who will get into that area…I am not saying whether Trai should do it, or who someone else…I am saying neutrality of devices, operating systems and platforms is something that should be examined and ensured,” he told PTI. Sharma — whose tenure at the helm of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is slated to end on September 30 — further said that at a time when internet has become all-pervasive, smartphones and devices are the medium to access software, operating system, and app stores.

“Platforms, Operating Systems, devices…if they are not neutral they can become new gatekeepers…telecom service providers will not exhibit this behaviour because of net neutrality principles,” he said. In the realm of telecom networks, net neutrality principles prohibit service providers from discriminating against internet content and services by blocking, throttling or according preferential higher speeds. Simply put, this means that entire internet traffic should be available to everyone on equal terms without general discrimination. Earlier, the government had accepted Trai’s recommendations on net neutrality in telecom networks with slight modifications to the regulator’s suggestion, and had then approached it for additional views on nuances like traffic management practices (TMPs) and multi-stakeholder body.

Trai recently mooted that the telecom department should establish a multi-stakeholder body to ensure that internet access providers adhere to the provisions of net neutrality, as it spelt out the broad contours of the proposed panel.

The role of the proposed panel — comprising telecom service providers and internet providers and other stakeholders such as the content providers, researcher, academic and technical community, civil society organisations, consumers, and the government — would be to provide advice and support to Department of Telecom in monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality principles, Trai had said in its latest recommendations on the issue. Live Mint

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