The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has announced it would hold an open house discussion on its Consultation Paper on Net Neutrality, on 30 August. The paper was published for public comment in January 2017, and, following requests from stakeholders, the deadline for submitting contributions was extended twice, until mid April 2017. Stakeholders were asked questions such as: what could be the principles for ensuring nondiscriminatory access to content on the Internet, in the Indian context? and how should ‘Internet traffic’ and providers of ‘Internet services’ be understood in the net neutrality context? The aim of the broader consultation is to ‘proceed towards final views on policy or regulatory interventions, where required, on the issue of net neutrality’.
The Internet’s success lies in its design, which is based on the principle of net neutrality. From the outset, the flow of all the content on the Internet was treated without discrimination. New entrepreneurs did not need permission or market power to innovate on the Internet. With the development of new digital services, especially the ones consuming high bandwidth such as high-quality video streaming, some Internet operators (telecom companies and ISPs) started prioritising certain traffic – such as their own services or the services of their business partners – based on business needs and plans, justifying such an approach with a need to raise funds to further invest in the network. Net neutrality proponents strongly fight back such plans arguing this could limit open access to information and online freedoms, and stifle online innovation.