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US telecom industry body files lawsuit against FCC’s open Internet order; What to expect in India

Net Neutrality

US telecom industry trade group USTelecom, which counts AT & T and Verizon among others as members, and Texas-based Internet service provider Alamo Broadband have filed two separate lawsuits against the net neutrality rules proposed by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month, reports The Washington Post. USTelecom believes the FCC’s open Internet order isn’t “legally sustainable”, while Alamo believes that the new rules harms its business. Here are the copy of the petitions: USTelecom and Alamo Broadband. The report mentions that FCC feels the petitions are “premature and subject to dismissal.”

It’s worth remembering that an earlier set of net neutrality rules framed by the FCC had been dismissed by the US appeals court in January 2014, after Verizon filed a lawsuit challenging it. More here.

This development coincided with the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) asking the Department of Telecom (DoT) to hold public discussions on net neutrality in India. This is a welcome move – open discussions are ideal as the stakeholders likely to be most affected by it (the customers) need to know how TRAI plans to tackle the net neutrality issue. However, we need to take COAI’s statement with a pinch of salt, given that the telecom industry body has previously defended telecom service providers’ stand against net neutrality.

Remember that earlier this year Rajan Mathews, Director General of the COAI, had justified violation of net neutrality: According to him net neutrality is a foreign concept and not applicable for India, and differential pricing for over the top (OTT) internet services is okay. The reason for this he had mentioned is that India’s networks and spectrum are stretched and bandwidth is scarce (why not pitch for more bandwidth and cheaper spectrum with the regulator). Mathews had also added that telcos have legal and regulatory considerations that Internet services don’t, and asked that voice services and SMS be treated same as VoIP and and WhatsApp. He had also claimed that consumers want to pay differently for different services. More on this here.

It’s also worth noting that Airtel had effectively forced TRAI’s hand on the net neutrality consultation: After Airtel introduced and then theatrically withdrew the net neutrality violating VoIP packs, it forced TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar to announce a consultation process and mention that Airtel’s action is not illegal, since currently there is no law preventing violation of net neutrality in the country. Plus, TRAI seems to be predisposed towards a regulation of online services. So, can we expect a neutral consultation from the TRAI on net neutrality?

Also Read:

A response to Airtel’s justification of its net neutrality violation

Indian telecom operators want government help in killing net neutrality

Image Credit: Free Press

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