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Telecom regulator chief says US net neutrality rules won’t impact India, but activists wary

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Activists say that India has strong norms on net neutrality, but concerned about the roadmap for TRAI’s future regulations on it.

The head of Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Ajit Pai is planning to repeal net neutrality in the US, but the head of India’s telecom regulator says it won’t affect the existing norms here in any way.   

“No, absolutely not,” R.S. Sharma, the chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, told ThePrint when he was asked if changes in US rules would have any impact on India.

In countries where net neutrality is respected, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must provide fair access to all content and applications. India’s telecom regulator had set the norms for net neutrality in 2016, but they are up for review in 2018.

Net neutrality activist and founder of news website Medianama, Nikhil Pahwa, said that India’s stance on net neutrality had been beneficial to the country.

“With net neutrality we’ve been adding about a 100 million users in the last year or so. There is great growth coming in with net neutrality. I don’t see a need to change that,” Pahwa said.

Advocate and volunteer at the Internet Freedom Foundation, Apar Gupta, said that India’s existing norms were more progressive than the US. But he expressed some reservations.

“As future rules are to be made and existing ones are to coming up for review, the FCC ruling may to some degree influence the thinking in India as well,” Gupta said. 

The net neutrality rules in India are not complete. There is no rule right now specifically on the technical form of discrimination which also violates neutrality,” Gupta added.

Madhulika Srikumar, Junior Fellow with ORF’s Cyber Security and Internet Governance Initiative, also said that India needs to maintain the lead it has on net neutrality. 

“India, with a head start on net neutrality regulations favouring an open internet, should refuse to look back next year when the TRAI’s 2016 regulations on prohibition of discriminatory tariffs come up for review” Srikumar said.

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