TRAI in favour of net neutrality, says no to differential tariff offers

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February 8, 2016

NEW DELHI – India’s telecom watchdog, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has finally put to rest the differential pricing debate for the next two years as it said on Monday that no company or any offer could charge discriminatory tariff for data on basis of content effective immediately.

February 8, 2016

NEW DELHI – India’s telecom watchdog, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has finally put to rest the differential pricing debate for the next two years as it said on Monday that no company or any offer could charge discriminatory tariff for data on basis of content effective immediately.

The regulator, which warned the operators that they cannot enter into any arrangement based on discriminatory pricing, also said that financial disincentives of Rs. 50,000-50 Lakh will be charged If TRAI regulations were violated.

Earlier, HT learnt from TRAI sources that the final guidelines were going to be announced on Monday around 4 PM in the evening. Sources also revaled that the committee, which was looking into the issue, had come to a unanimous decision to stop differential pricing citing that customers should not be constrained from accessing any kind of service or product on the internet.

Speculations that TRAI was taking a anti-differential pricing stance were kicked off as the watchdog rejected operators’ offer to discuss differential pricing again.

Differential pricing for data, which is exactly what it sounds like — is charging customers different prices for access to different websites and services. If mobile operators had their way, you would get a separate bill for using WhatsApp, another one for watching YouTube videos, yet another one for making a Skype call — and pay nothing at all for using Facebook because guess what, Papa Zuck struck a deal.

TRAI had released a 11-page consultation paper on differential pricing in December seeking industry stakeholders comments about arriving at different alternatives to zero-rated services or services that can have the same effect but would keep the internet free and neutral.

Later, the watchdog held an open house discussion on differential pricing at the PHD Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi after stakeholders and individuals had submitted their comments about differential pricing and its effects on net neutrality. In their comments, the telecom operators and Facebook had sent replies in favour of differential pricing with interests in providing free/subsidised but regulated internet plans (like Airtel Zero or Facebook’s Free Basics) to the customers.

Before the open house discussion, TRAI had asked asked Reliance Communications to put a hold on Free Basics (previously Internet.org) till the time the final guidelines were laid out due to a raging controversy on net neutrality. To which Facebook retaliated by asking its users to send in responses to TRAI, favouring Free Basics.Once all the responses were in, TRAI questioned Facebook’s methods which resulted in a series of exchanges made public by TRAI.

As the debate refused to die down, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh met telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to discuss the issues related to differential data pricing — a key factor in Digital India and Make-In-India initiatives. Later, reports hinted that the PMO may soon start providing first time Internet users in the country with some amount of free mobile Internet data like LPG subsidy.


Courtesy: HT