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NDCP 2018, net neutrality rules cleared by Telecom Commission

NDCP2018 aims to attract $100 bn investments by 2022 through policy reforms

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NEW DELHI: India’s Telecom Commission, the second highest decision-making body regarding telecom policies, yesterday late evening approved the National Digital Communication Policy 2018 and also net neutrality rules, which bar service providers from discriminating against internet content and services by blocking, throttling or granting them higher speed access.

Some mission critical applications or services like remote surgery and autonomous cars will, however, be kept out of the purview of net neutrality framework.

"The Telecom Commission approved net neutrality as recommended by TRAI…some critical services will be kept out of its purview," Telecom Commission Chairman and Secretary Department of Telecoms Aruna Sundararajan told reporters here, according to a Press Trust of India report.

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. It had also favoured tweaking of licensing norms of players to ensure "explicit restrictions" on discrimination in internet access, based on content.

The Department of Telecom will set-up a multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality comprising government representatives, internet of things providers, telecom operators, civil society members and consumer organisations. DoT will seek recommendations from TRAI on traffic management for critical services.

The Commission also approved the new telecom policy --- rechristened National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018 --- for seeking approval of the Union Cabinet, Sundararajan was quoted by the PTI report as saying.

"Everybody in the meeting said that digital infrastructure is even more important than physical infrastructure for India... CEO of Niti Ayog [Amitabh Kant] said that for...districts, we must ensure digital infrastructure is provided at the earliest. Therefore, India must have ease of doing business and enabling policy environment," Sundararajan said.

The NDCP, which looks at having more synergies amongst various government organisations and ministries, aims to attract $100 billion investments, 400,0000 new jobs, 50 megabits per second broadband access to every citizen in the digital communications sector by 2022 with the help of reforms.

A government official, who was part of the meeting, was quoted by PTI as saying that the Telecom Commission has approved installation of around 12.5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots in all gram panchayats (village administrations) with viability gap funding of around Rs 60,000 million by December 2018.

Under the Wi-Fi project all police stations, post offices, primary health centres, schools will be connected with Wi-Fi by December 2018 and there will be a couple of  additional hotspots that will be available for round the clock public access.

The PTI report added that the commission has also approved avoidance of double tax on virtual network operators (VNOs) who provide retail services of telecom operators.

According to the proposal approved, VNOs will be required to pay levies based on their adjusted gross revenue earned from any value addition that they will be do over the top of service they will buy from telecom operators for selling it to end consumers.

Earlier, telecom minister Manoj Sinha had said that his department looks to get approval of the Cabinet for NDCP 2018 by July-end.

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