India approves "world's strongest net neutrality rules"

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The authorities suggest there should be no kind of discrimination or any type of interference in the treatment of online content. Providers are also prohibited from zero content rating.

"The Telecom Commission (TC) today approved net neutrality as recommended by Trai expect some critical services will be kept out of its purview", said Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

"This is a very strong deterrent that has been created for net neutrality violations", said Nikhil Pahwa, co-founder of India's Save the Internet campaign.

In November, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India reportedly recommended that internet access in the country remain non-discriminatory, and that there be no throttling, blocking or preferential treatment.

The Department of Telecommunications didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under the Indian-specific laws, the Times reports that mobile operators, internet providers, and social-media and internet companies can not engage in, or seek, preferential treatment.

However, there are few internet services exempted from the laid down rules, termed "critical IOT services" and "specialized services" by TRAI chairman R S Sharma.

"From an Indian context, India has a huge population, huge things are going to happen on the internet".

The TRAI in 2016 rejected a plan - "Free Basics" - by Facebook to provide free access to certain services it controlled; however, the Indian government put a stop to the program over concerns that Facebook violated net neutrality by providing only select online content for free.

But proponents of net neutrality hailed the Indian government's decision as a major step, particularly given the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to roll back similar protections in the United States. "It is important that this platform be kept open and free and not cannibalised".

Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body in the telecom ministry, has approved the new telecom policy and net neutrality recommendations in a meeting on Wednesday, among other proposals. "Unlike the U.S., where the FCC has gone back and is essentially opposing net neutrality, India has now the strongest net neutrality regulations in the world", he added.

Internet service providers who break the rules could lose their licenses to operate in India. That's the question at the heart of net neutrality, and here's everything you need to know about it.

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