Monday, 8 February 2016

TRAI Supports Net Neutrality, Says No To Facebook's Free Basics

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday ruled against differential pricing for Internet services, in a major setback to Facebook Inc’s plan to roll out free Internet to the masses in Asia’s third-largest economy. It ruled that no service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services offered based on content.

The TRAI added that a service provider may reduce tariff for providing emergency services or at times of any grave emergency. It remarked the same has to be reported to authority within seven working days. The TRAI says it will order service providers to withdraw such tariff and will penalise the service provider with Rs 50,000 for each day of contravention.

For those uninitiated, it began with TRAI floating a consultation paper seeking views if differential pricing should be allowed, amidst the whole net neutrality debate. The regulator wanted to know what steps should be taken to ensure principles of non-discrimination, affordable Internet access, competition and so on if differential pricing is allowed. After some media coverage connecting differential pricing to net neutrality, Trai quickly put out a statement saying the paper issued is not on net neutrality, but on a specific matter about differential pricing.

However, there is no denying that both are co-related. Now, differential pricing means, different prices for different content aka apps, which violates net neutrality. So, differential pricing and net neutrality go hand-in-hand. And, we can say the same about Free Basics or any other similar platform. Differential pricing won’t just change the way we’ve always used Internet, but blatantly unfair and discriminating.The paper floated by TRAI received 24 lakh responses.

Points to be noted :
  • No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
  • No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
  • Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
  • Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified
  • TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.
Complete TRAI report can be read here.

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