Net neutrality rules approved: Why telcos have always been against it

A month after the US repealed a regulation ensuring net neutrality in the country, India approved a set of rules on Wednesday, that intends to keep internet open to everybody in the nation.

India’s move on net neutrality is meant to ensure no service provider can restrict or discriminate in the treatment of content by blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds while providing internet access.

The development comes as a setback for a few companies, especially telecom operators who are against net neutrality.

The debate over net neutrality has been going on in India since 2015, trigerred by the launch of zero-rated mobile services such as Facebook Free Basic and Airtel Zero. These services offered free and subsidised data packages that provided access to only a select services, such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp messenger.

These services were ultimately banned by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in 2016, even as many telecom operators voiced against it.

In the debate over net neutrality, most telecom players have always favoured differential pricing, saying that they have made investments in network and spectrum.

At an open house session called by Trai on the issue of net neutrality in August 2017, telecom companies, including Airtel and Reliance Communications, had sought a revenue-share model from content creators.

In the session, Reliance Communications had said that “consumers want to pay for use-specific services” and not everything, and that the industry was at a point where data growth needed differential pricing.

Earlier in April, Bharti Airtel had criticised a net neutrality consultation paper floated by Trai saying that the country “needs not only net neutrality, but also ‘net equality’.”

The telecom major also accused the over-the-top (OTT) communication services such as voice and messaging of eating into telecom’s share of revenue by providing direct substitutes for the services offered by telecom operators.

Back then, Vodafone had also expressed similar sentiments saying that the net neutrality requirements have traditionally been applied only to telecom operators, while other providers in the internet value chain can also differentiate in terms of quality and service.

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