India Just Backed Net Neutrality, as the US Considers Abandoning It

It’s a great sign in a country that has had a problematic relationship with online censorship.

Nov 28 2017, 5:44pm

Image: Hamza Butt/Flickr

As the US is on the brink of letting net neutrality slip away, other countries are doubling down on an open and free internet. India’s telecom regulator issued recommendations for net neutrality rules on Tuesday, calling the internet an “open platform” that must be protected.

“Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts
any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content,” the recommendations read.

The suggested rules prohibit practices including “blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.” They allow some wiggle room for traffic management—providing fast lanes for certain content when traffic is peaking—as long as it is only done to prevent slow service due to congestion.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India created the outline in response to a request from the country’s Department of Telecommunications. The DoT began the process of formalizing net neutrality rules last year when it banned zero-rating programs like Facebook’s “Free Basics” service, which allows users free mobile access to a handful of select sites (including Facebook)—but blocks access to the rest of the internet.

Read more: Two Months of Internet Blackouts Have Taken a Toll on Kashmir

India has had a complicated history with a free and open internet. Though last year’s decision on zero-rating programs signalled a desire to uphold net neutrality, the country has also dabbled in government censorship of online content, including a police blackout of internet access in Kashmir last summer.

But these recommendations show the government is eager to formalize net neutrality and is moving in the right direction, a crucial signal as the US’s Federal Communications Commission plans to dismantle net neutrality rules enacted under President Obama, which would open the door for telecom companies to exert any number of nefarious forces on your internet connection, from blocking sites to throttling service.

As other democracies march forward to preserve a free and open internet, America prepares to slide backwards.

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