The Shreya Singhal judgment, which declared the censorious S.66A unconstitutional, has indubitably been a huge victory for free speech in India, from the perspective of the users and the intermediaries, both. Yet, the struggle for free speech on the cyberspace in India is not yet over. There are multiple issues that still need to be addressed, one of the most crucial of them being that of Network Neutrality (see our previous posts on this issue here and here).
Recently, the Telecome Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a much awaited consultation paper on what it calls ‘OTT Licensing’, that is, whether OTT service providers should require licenses in order to provide their services. The second major issue in the consultation paper is whether there should be non-discrimination of internet access via telecom operators – fundamentally, a question of network neutrality. This consultation paper is right now up for comments (for details, please refer to this Medianama article).
Network Neutrality is arguably not directly related to IP concerns, but it is such a fundamental aspect of the Internet it directly or indirectly touches about everything. This very blog, for instance, benefits from Network Neutrality – without it, it would be entirely possible that people just couldn’t reach us! Imagine the short-term issues we had with our side in January-February (where readers were not able to access the blog unless they went about it in a specific particular way due to a glitch/hack), but far more long-term, more systematic, and legitimate. This is TRAI’s first foray into the area, and this is our first opportunity to make sure that the TRAI knows how much we value our neutral networks. Similarly, the OTT licensing issues are also fundamentally crucial to the way most types of services are delivered through the internet.
We do not have, in India, a John Oliver (see his video on net neutrality here) who can appeal to the masses and flood the TRAI with comments. But that in no way means that the work that is done here is any less important, or that that issues deserve any less concern. Please read (the full paper can be accessed here), and please comment. These are the issues that decide the future of the internet in India, as much as S. 66A did, if not more.