Science, Tech & Environment

As the US moves to dismantle net neutrality rules, India is moving in the opposite direction

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Supporter of net neutrality Lance Brown Eyes protests the FCC's recent decision to repeal the program in Los Angeles, California, Nov. 28, 2017. 

Credit:

Kyle Grillot/Reuters

As the Federal Communications Commission moves closer to dismantling rules created to ensure equal access to the internet, India’s telecommunications regulator is moving in the opposite direction.

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In late November, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a set of recommendations on net neutrality, bringing the country closer to what some say is one of the strongest net neutrality frameworks in the world.

“The debate ... that this ruling was about was essentially the same one that’s taking place in the US, about whether certain sites should be available at faster speeds,” said Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights activist who's been a leader in India's fight for net neutrality. “And the Indian regulators essentially ruled that there needs to be non-discriminating practices by [internet service providers], where they don’t give preferential treatment to one side or the other.”

Pahwa has been a vocal advocate for net neutrality in India and was a key player in getting India to stop differential pricing for data services last year.

“Net neutrality ensures that there’s free and fair competition on the internet, instead of a situation without net neutrality where the [internet service providers] pick winners,” Pahwa said, adding that “India’s been at the forefront of this battle.”

The FCC is set to vote later this month on whether to eliminate net neutrality rules instituted under the Obama administration. Current rules prohibit internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from blocking certain content, or slowing down user access to content.