Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Return of the Net Neutrality debate in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Net Neutrality

Mains level: Net Neutrality Debate

net neutrality

Since November 2022, India’s Cellular Operators Association (COAI) has been requesting that platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp pay a share of revenue to offset network costs, reigniting the net neutrality debate.

What is Net Neutrality?

  • Net Neutrality is the concept that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally, without discrimination or preference given to certain types of content, websites, or users.
  • This means that internet service providers (ISPs) should not be allowed to block, slow down, or prioritize traffic based on the source, destination, or content of that traffic.
  • Net Neutrality is considered important for ensuring a level playing field for all internet users and promoting innovation, competition, and freedom of expression online.
  • It has been a subject of debate and regulatory action in many countries, including India, the United States, and the European Union.

Features of Net Neutrality

The following are some of the features of net neutrality:

  • Non-discrimination: All data should be treated equally, and internet service providers (ISPs) should not discriminate or prioritize any type of content, application, service, or device based on its source, destination, or ownership.
  • Transparency: ISPs should provide customers with clear and accurate information about their internet services, including their network management practices, terms of service, and fees.
  • No blocking: ISPs should not block or censor lawful content, applications, services, or devices that customers want to access, use, send, receive, or offer on the internet.
  • No throttling: ISPs should not intentionally slow down or degrade the quality of any lawful content, application, service, or device that customers want to access, use, send, receive, or offer on the internet.
  • No paid prioritization: ISPs should not offer faster or better access to any content, application, service, or device in exchange for payment or other consideration from content providers, developers, or users.
  • Competition: Net neutrality promotes competition among ISPs by preventing them from using their control over access to the internet to favor their own content, applications, services, or devices or those of their partners, affiliates, or subsidiaries over those of their competitors.

Why in news?   

Ans. BIF responds to COAI’s demands

  • The Broadband India Forum (BIF), which represents Internet firms such as Meta and Google, responded to the COAI’s demands by refuting them.
  • The COAI’s argument that the current demand has nothing to do with Net neutrality was contested by the BIF.
  • The COAI argued that Net neutrality pertains to the non-discriminatory treatment of content that has no nexus to the usage fee issue.

Arguments for and against the usage fee

  • Net neutrality activists and content providers argue that imposing a usage fee, even on a limited number of large players, would be a distortion of the Internet’s architecture.
  • They contend that content providers and telecom operators enjoy a symbiotic relationship without charging each other.
  • On the other hand, the COAI argues that a network fee is not related to Net neutrality and suggests that the government reduce spectrum fees and support telecom companies with the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
  • Worldwide, telecom operators in the European Union are also demanding similar usage fees from content providers.

TRAI ruling and the Unified License

  • In 2016, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) ruled in favour of Net neutrality, which requires that all traffic on an Internet network be treated equally.
  • In 2018, the Department of Telecommunications embedded the net neutrality concept into the Unified License, which binds all telecom operators and Internet providers.



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