Telecom Regulator (TRAI) to Examine Data Packages – The Obama Effect?

In an interesting move, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (“TRAI”) is examining the internet packages offered by telecom operators offering access to Facebook and WhatsApp. This seems to have come in furtherance to the recent debate on net neutrality (can be read here), which is also backed by the United States of America President Barack Obama.

Airtel and Uninor, the Indian operator of Norway’s Telenor are expected to be in the TRAI radar for their data packages.The operators are likely to be questioned to explain how the packages have been worked out, to determine if it involves blocking equal access to other content providers.

TRAI would be considering whether such Facebook and WhatsApp data packages offered amount to a preferential access for such services. The industry terminology for the services is over-the-top (“OTT”) services.Considering the legal framework, presently, ‘net neutrality’ is neither specifically defined nor regulated under the Indian telecom regulatory regime. Generally, net neutrality implies no blocking, no prioritisation and no throttling of any content on the network be the telecom operator. The propelled growth of the mobile internet services, specifically owed to the OTT services and the international upsurge on demand for net neutrality must have prompted TRAI to review the internet packages offered by a few operators.

It is understood that TRAI seems to believe that such data packages might have a countenance on the issues it proposes to raise in a soon-to-be issued consultation paper. Is it the Indian regulator’s backing of the global debate on net neutrality, set into motion be the recent remarks of the United States President Barack Obama?


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