Telecom regulator Trai today said the consultation paper it has issued this week is not on net neutrality but seeks views of stakeholders on a specific matter of differential pricing for data services being offered by operators.
Differential pricing however is seen by some as part of the overall debate on net neutrality, a principle which is against any priority being accorded to an entity in Internet traffic flow on account of payments made to service providers like telecom companies.
“We are saying that it is a specific issue which we have raised, that may be a part of net neutrality… This is a specific problem which has come to the notice of Trai and we are consulting the stakeholders as to what their views are,” Trai Chairman RS Sharma said at an event here.
Amid debate over zero-rating plans and telecom firms offering discounted tariffs for accessing certain websites, Trai on Wednesday came out with a consultation paper seeking views if such differential pricing should be allowed. When asked why is Trai issuing papers on net neutrality in parts, Sharma said the regulatory had not issued any paper on net neutrality as such.
He said there are examples which have happened in the recent past where content providers and telecom service providers (TSPs) have tied-up, and it is being proposed that if their content goes via the telecom companies’ pipes or networks, then there will be free or near free data charges. “Effectively what has happened is that telecom companies in a way are creating a differential pricing regime for different websites, so that is the question which we have asked in the consultation paper whether it is appropriate or not,” Sharma said.
Earlier, Trai had issued a paper on over-the-top (OTT) players and if they should be regulated for providing competing services like telecom operators.
“Trai had not issued any paper on net neutrality as such. The Authority had issued an OTT paper and basically the issue in that paper was different,” Sharma said. He said the issue that time was whether those OTT players who were providing competing services which the telecom operators were providing, and if they should also be regulated like telecom players.
“That was the question then, this question is completely different. Here what we are saying is tie-up between the content providers and telecom service providers, so that they start offering differential rates for that websites, whether that is appropriate or not,” Sharma said.
In the consultation paper, Trai is seeking comments as to what steps should be taken to ensure that principles of non-discrimination, transparency, affordable Internet access, competition, market entry and innovation are adhered to, in case differential pricing is allowed.