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BASIS To Organize Round Table On Proper Guidelines For Ecommerce Industry: Net Neutrality and Fair Competition

BASIS, in collaboration with BASIS eCommerce Alliance, is holding a roundtable on September 03, 2016 at the BASIS Auditorium on preparing proper guidelines for the country’s growing ecommerce industry, net neutrality, and fair competition.

Apparently, the event is taking place right after the launch of GP Shop, an ecommerce platform by Grameenphone, country’s largest telecom operator, which has also already raised questions regarding net neutrality and fair competition in the industry. Many raised concerns about a telecom operator’s power to bend the rules and play unfair.

Tomorrow’s event, according to the organizers, aims to look at and discuss the current state of ecommerce, importance of net neutrality in order to prevent unfair competition and also policy directives for the development of the growing sector.

Net neutrality is a long-due topic in Bangladesh’s internet space. Last year, Facebook launched its free basics service in partnership with Robi, which was also partially endorsed by the Government. Free Basics is the first such service that questions the net neutrality [we ran a story on it]. But no one paid attention, despite the fact that Facebook had to shutter the same service in India upon the question of net neutrality.

This is not a unique example, though. Telecom operators in the country run numerous services starting from music streaming to full-fledged content platform to online ticketing platform to online video streaming services. Majority of these services take undue advantage from the owner operators which is a direct violation of the idea of net neutrality. However, due to lack of guidelines and attention from the authority, this matter never got proper treatment.

But this is an important matter given the fact that it gives operators undue advantage over other competitors in the market. There is no shortage of examples of net neutrality guidelines from the authorities around the world. European Parliament just announced the most specific directive on net neutrality this week. As the Verge explains:

“The net neutrality rules adopted by the European Parliament last year aimed to strengthen net neutrality by requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all web traffic equally, without favoring some services over others.”

The report also adds:

"ISPs are prohibited from blocking or slowing down of Internet traffic, except where necessary," BEREC said. "The exceptions are limited to: traffic management to comply with a legal order, to ensure network integrity and security, and to manage congestion, provided that equivalent categories of traffic are treated equally."

The guidelines prohibit zero-rating in circumstances "where all applications are blocked or slowed down once the data cap is reached," though they acknowledge that some cases are "less clear-cut." European regulators should assess such practices on a case-by-case basis, BEREC said, taking account for factors such as the market share of an ISP, effects on app choice, and the scale of the practice. The regulations also allow for traffic management "under limited circumstances;" traffic management practices that block, interfere with, or slow down services and apps would be banned.

The guidelines provide examples of what could be considered as a specialized service, including VoLTE (high-quality voice calls), linear IPTV services, and remote surgeries, which would operate separately from the internet. Such services would have to meet certain quality and capacity requirements to ensure that they can only operate on networks that are not connected to the internet.”

Net neutrality is an important matter. As our internet economy grows, we need to take this matter seriously and proper guidelines should be in place in order to ensure fair competition, prevent undue practices and more.

We hope BASIS’s roundtable will be the beginning of something significant on that path.

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