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India Just Backed Net Neutrality

Under the new rules, India's internet service providers will no longer be able to carve up the internet into slow and fast lanes, and discriminating against any content on the internet will also be banned.

Posted on November 28, 2017, at 8:31 a.m. ET

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

India’s telecom regulator the TRAI issued official recommendations to the country’s telecom department upholding a free and open internet for the country’s 1.3 billion residents on Tuesday.

“Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down, or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content,” the regulator wrote.

Once India’s telecom department accepts these recommendations, internet service providers will no longer be allowed to carve up India’s internet into slow and fast lanes, throttle speeds, or discriminate against content in any way. The TRAI has also suggested the creation of a committee that includes representatives of internet service providers, consumer rights groups, and content makers to check Net Neutrality violations in India.

These recommendations make Net Neutrality — the principle that says that all bits on the internet should be treated equally — rules in India far more ironclad than in the US, where the FCC moved last week to repeal rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or slowing websites, or charging a premium for “fast lanes” for things like high-quality streaming.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump earlier this year, called the current rules, which were passed by the Obama administration in 2015, “heavy-handed,” and said the FCC would stop micro-managing internet in the US.

On Monday, more than 200 businesses in the US including Airbnb, Twitter, Foursquare, Github, and Pinterest signed a letter to the FCC urging it to reconsider its plan to end Net Neutrality.

India’s Net Neutrality advocates have lauded the regulators’ recommendations.

“Great TRAI ruling on Net Neutrality” tweeted Nikhil Pahwa, editor-in-chief of Indian tech news website Medianama and one of the volunteers at the Internet Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that mobilized campaigns against Facebook’s controversial Free Basics service in 2015. The TRAI eventually banned discriminatory pricing, which made Free Basics illegal in India.


An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Nikhil Pahwa's foundation.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.