Regulators

TRAI chairman wants debate to settle net neutrality not spars between companies

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MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Rahul Khullar has said that there is a need for a democratic debate on net neutrality, especially against the backdrop of a big corporate war between a media house and a telecom operator.

“There are passionate voices on both sides of the debate. And if that was not enough, there’s a corporate war going on between a media house and a telecom operator, which is confounding already difficult matters,” Khullar told The Indian Express.

The authority has received over 800,000 mails since it floated a consultation paper on regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) services and applications on 27 March. TRAI requested stakeholders to comment on its paper by 24 April and offer counter comments by 8 May. It is also likely to hold an open house discussion on the issue soon. Stand up comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB) and other net neutrality activists were the prime reason behind so many mails sent to the Authority. 

According to Khullar, there are people who are passionately concerned about net neutrality. “They have a moral anchor… Equally, there are others on the opposite side. But there are many others in between that one should not ignore despite the passionate nature of the debate between the two extremes. We need a democratic debate on the issue, not shrill voices,” he said.

The regulator has heard arguments on both sides. For instance, telecom service providers have pointed out the contradiction in the government’s digital inclusion agenda, which may not be achieved if they strictly adhere to the net neutrality principle, because they will be unable to raise any additional resources for rolling out networks and infrastructure. On the other hand, OTTs argue that if telecom operators are allowed to pick and chose, they might build alliances with the big OTTs at the cost of the nascent ones.

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