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The Government of India adopts net neutrality rules

The Government of India adopts net neutrality rules

The
Government of India through the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)
approved net neutrality
rules on 11 July
. Net neutrality that will ensure that all Indian
citizens continue to have free and fair access to the Internet. 

The decision
was made on recommendations
proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in November 2017
,
which stated that net neutrality would ban Internet service providers (ISPs)
from participating in any form of discrimination or interference in the provision
of online content.

The
Department of Telecommunications has accepted the net neutrality rules as they
fall in line with the Government’s vision to create a digitally empowered
nation. The Department intends to develop a sturdy and secure state-of-the-art
telecommunication network that provides seamless coverage to rural and remote
areas to bridge the digital gap in the country, facilitate socio-economic
development and create an inclusive knowledge society through affordable and
high-quality broadband services.

Under net
neutrality, access to the Internet and the delivery of online services is
unrestricted and the same for everyone. Net neutrality prohibits the blocking,
throttling, and zero-rating of internet data.

The only
exceptions to the rules are new and upcoming services that might require
prioritised Internet lanes and faster delivery speeds, such as autonomous
driving, telemedicine or remote surgery services. A committee will look into
the possible exceptions for crucial IoT (Internet of Things) services.  

Net
neutrality has become a pressing issue across the world as social media giants
and mobile and Internet service providers want greater control over the
delivery of services and online content to internet users.

According to
a press
statement released by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting earlier in
May 2018
, India is expected to have around 969 million Internet
users by 2021. At present, a large number
of the Indian population still does not have access to the Internet, but with
the increase in smartphone manufacturing, affordable mobile data plans
and the setting up of Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas, India is expected to make
a lot of progress over the next few years.

Initiatives like these are a part of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital
India
 plan that was launched in July 2015 with the objective to
create a digitally literate country.

India has been campaigning for net neutrality for almost three years, the
Department of Telecommunications first
examined net neutrality in January 2015
. The Ministry of
Communications released a press statement
that quoted the Minister
of Communication and Information Technology, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, saying
that for India, net neutrality is very important and is an instrument for the
masses and it must remain an instrument for the masses. As far as government
architecture to deal with this issue is concerned India is studying this and
discussing it with stakeholders. 

Net
neutrality rules require Internet service providers to treat all online content
equally, avoiding the with-holding of content and access to certain websites,
services and apps.

The new net
neutrality rules are expected to benefit start-ups and encourage innovation as access
to the Internet will be free and non-discriminatory. Smaller organisations will
have the opportunity to expand without having to worry about unfair competition
from larger companies that pay for specialised treatment.

Indian Internet
service providers will need to agree to function according to the rules when
they sign license agreements with the Department of Telecommunications. Internet
service providers that fail to follow net neutrality rules could have their
licenses cancelled.