Corporate war between media house, teleco muddling Net Neutrality debate: TRAI chief Khullar

The regulator is learnt to have received over 800,000 mails since it floated a consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services and applications on March 27.

Written by Anil Sasi , P Vaidyanathan Iyer | New Delhi | Updated: April 18, 2015 9:53 am
net neutrality, Telecom regulator, Rahul Khullar, net neutrality,  Internet.org, Cleartrip, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI, Airtel Zero plan, Flipkart, net neutrality movement, net neutrality controversy, controversy net neutrality, web services regulation, Internet and Mobile Association of India, IAMAI, ‘We need a democratic debate on the issue, not shrill voices,’ Telecom regulator Rahul Khullar said.

Telecom regulator Rahul Khullar on Wednesday said there was a need for a democratic debate on net neutrality, especially against the backdrop of a big corporate war between a media house and a telecom operator.

“There are passionate voices on both sides of the debate. And if that was not enough, there’s a corporate war going on between a media house and a telecom operator which is confounding already difficult matters,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Khullar told The Indian Express.

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The regulator is learnt to have received over 800,000 mails since it floated a consultation paper on regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) services and applications on March 27. TRAI has requested stakeholders to comment on its paper by April 24 and offer counter comments by May 8. It is also likely to hold an open house discussion on the issue soon.

READ: Now, Cleartrip, media firms commit to net neutrality, pull out of Internet.org

The consultation paper has a chapter on net neutrality and deliberates on the arguments for and against the principle. It also describes the regulatory framework in foreign jurisdictions. The debate gained fervour after Airtel announced an Airtel Zero plan, wherein users were not being charged for data consumed while browsing the Flipkart site. Facing a backlash by Internet users on social media, Flipkart itself pulled out of the plan.

According to Khullar, there are people who are passionately concerned about net neutrality. “They have a moral anchor… Equally, there are others on the opposite side.

But there are many others in between that one should not ignore despite the passionate nature of the debate between the two extremes. We need a democratic debate on the issue, not shrill voices,” he said.

The regulator has heard arguments on both sides. For instance, telecom service providers have pointed out the contradiction in the government’s digital inclusion agenda, which may not be achieved if they strictly adhere to the net neutrality principle, because they will be unable to raise any additional resources for rolling out networks and infrastructure. On the other hand, OTTs argue that if telecom operators are allowed to pick and chose, they might build alliances with the big OTTs at the cost of the nascent ones.

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  1. Abhijit Sahay
    Apr 16, 2015 at 10:53 am
    In response to Mr. Ramamurthi Sundaram - somehow I am unable to post a reply to your comment. Sir, with due respect your analogy is completely wrong. The correct analogy would be this: "What if the ministry of road & transport starts charging a fee with Jewellery shop owners, payment of which would mean that they can ferry their customers and non-payment would mean they won't. In doing so they completely ignore the fact that you have paid the road tax for the vehicle that you are using and at the same time the toll tax. At the same time If I decide to visit a jewellery shop as a customer they deny me the page because the shop owner does not have an agreement with the ministry, and I as a consumer don't want to pay an extra charge either, because I have paid my road tax and toll." I think as an experienced person you are taking youngsters and their intellect too lightly. You should get your facts correct and then build an exact analogy to build your case. Khullar is wrong on the flagging issue and so are you with your analogy. TRAI is the regulatory authority. If you read the consultation paper you will say that it's not a regulatory authority but a lobbying arm for the Telecom Service Providers.
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    1. chakru
      Apr 16, 2015 at 9:38 am
      Rahul Khullar got paid from Airtel, that's why he mentions “There are pionate voices on both sides of the debate" Seriously! who is on the other side? I am sure its just Airtel and you!
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        Chavali
        Apr 16, 2015 at 11:06 am
        Is he brokering a deal or uming a role of a Regulator.
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          Deeksha Sharma
          Apr 16, 2015 at 7:59 am
          It is clear from Mr. Khullar's outburst that he did not expect such a backlash from normally apathetic Indian community. He is clearly uncomfortable as he may have given some sort of a positive urance to the Greedy Telecom operator already making obscene profits. How much upgrading Airtel has done can be gauged from numerous dropped calls. Mr. Khullar retire peacefully with a Conscience.
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            Ganesh Dore
            Apr 17, 2015 at 4:41 am
            I think Bhullar needs to be fired
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