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CCI to await TRAI report even as Parliamentary Committee studies net neutrality

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NEW DELHI: Even as a Parliamentary Committee is meeting to discuss the net neutrality issue, Competition Commission of India (CCI) chairman Ashok Chawla has said net neutrality is a policy issue and Telecom Regularity Authority of India (TRAI) should first take a stand on it.

Chawla said CCI would look into the matter when it will come to it. “It has not come to us. We will see when it comes. This is a policy issue. The regulator has to decide first. Based on whatever happens in terms of behaviour as in conformity and non-conformity of policy, we will see and in any case if they are going to interact with us they are welcome,” Chawla told reporters on the sidelines of an annual day function of the CCI.

TRAI has already touched upon net neutrality in its Consultation Paper on over the top (OTT) services.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Ministry sources said that the Committee may hold more than one meeting on the issue, and will then place its report in the next session of Parliament. Representatives of some telecom companies are understood to have presented their views on the issue.

CCI orders a probe only if there is prima-facie evidence of a violation of competition norms.

The development comes at a time when some telecom operators have entered into tie-ups for offering free access to certain mobile apps and websites. Such activities have raised concerns on net neutrality. The last refers to equal treatment for all Internet traffic.

Last month, Bharti Airtel launched Airtel Zero, an open marketing platform that allowed customers to access many mobile applications for free, with the data charges being paid by startups and large companies.

Over the past few months, operators such as Reliance Communications and Uninor have partnered Internet companies such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Wikipedia to offer free usage to consumers.

Such moves are being seen as being opposed to net neutrality, particularly to the extent that they affect communication OTT services like Viber, free calls on WhatsApp etc. 

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