TRAI supports Net Neutrality; slams differential pricing: Here’s everything you need to know

TRAI order: Telecom industry body says regulator ignored benefits of price differentiation, Facebook says it will continue efforts

By: Tech Desk | Updated: February 9, 2016 10:20 am
Net Neutrality, TRAI, Facebook Free Basics, Internet.org, internet services, differential pricing, tech news, technology TRAI rules against differential pricing of internet services which could be seen as a direct blow 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 order can be access here.

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.

Watch Video: TRAI Slams Differential Pricing For Internet Services: What It Means

The telecom industry expressed its disappointment at the order. Rajan Mathews, Director General, COAI said:”COAI had approached the regulator with the reasons to allow price differentiation as the move would have taken us closer to connecting the one billion unconnected citizens of India. By opting to turn away from this opportunity, TRAI has ignored all the benefits of price differentiation that we had submitted as a part of the industry’s response to its consulting paper, including improving economic efficiency, increase in broadband penetration, reduction in customer costs and provision of essential services among other things.”

MUST-READ: Key points from the TRAI order 

He said in the COAI’s opinion, TRAI’s regulation on prohibiting differential pricing constitutes a welfare-reducing measure of high concern by blocking a possible avenue for our less-advantaged citizens to move to increased economic growth and prosperity by harnessing the power of the Internet. “We believe that this measure will have an impact on the Government’s ambitious Digital India initiative.”

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the internet and the opportunities it brings.”

Facebook’s Free Basics plan, launched in around three dozen developing countries, offers pared-down web services on mobile phones, along with access to Facebook’s own social network and messaging services, without charge.

Must Read: Facebook Free Basics and Net Neutrality debate: All that has happened so far

Critics had argued that allowing access to a select few apps and web services for free violates the principle of net neutrality – the principle that all websites and data on the Internet should be treated as equal.

The telecom regulator also rejected the argument that differential pricing will enable TSPs to bring innovative packages to suit requirements of users.

“Given that a majority of the population are yet to be connected to the Internet, allowing service providers to define the nature of access would be equivalent of letting TSPs shape the users’ internet experience,” TRAI said in its release.

The TRAI also quoted ISP License Agreement which reads, “The subscriber shall have unrestricted access to all the content available on Internet except for such content which is restricted by the Licensor/designated authority under Law. Price-based differentiation would make certain content more attractive to consumers resulting in altering a consumer’s online behaviour.”

The telecom regulator has exempted intranet from its purview for now and it may review the regulations after the expiry of a period of two years.

Reacting to the order, MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said: “This is a big win for Indian consumers & Net Neutrality. Congratulations to TRAI and R S Sharma for standing up for the consumers. This is a very powerful and positive first step taken by TRAI. The days of telcos controlling regulations and regulatory policy is over and it’s consumer to the fore.”

Arpita Pal Agrawal, Leader – Telecom, PwC India said with this notification TRAI has decided that all citizens of India will get the same view of the Internet which is in line with the principle of non-discriminatory access. “What remains to be done is to find innovative ways to actually get all citizens access to this Internet as India’s ranking in universal broadband access is abysmally poor and the digital divide continues to widen.”

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Amresh Nandan, Gartner’s Research Director, said the TRAI notification favoring net-neutrality is in line with what was seen in the US in 2010 when FCC favoured an ‘Open Internet’ and then came up with an ‘Open Internet order’ in early 2015. “The European Union also ruled in favor of treating all Internet traffic equally. Though some of their amendments allowed for differentiation and have been a subject of intense criticism,” he said.

“Telecom service providers may not be happy with this notification. However, they still have the ability and freedom to create different kind of Internet access packages; as long as content is not a parameter to provide or bar access to anyone. Such practices have already started elsewhere with products such as bandwidth on demand, bandwidth calendaring etc. to create premium products. Obviously, it will require changes in network and operations but that’s where the telecom roadmap goes,” Nandan added.

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First Published on: February 8, 2016 4:36 pm
  1. M
    Modi-ot_Slow_guns
    Feb 8, 2016 at 11:17 am
    Brahmins must have maneuvered to marry a brahmin woman to Zukerberg. Missed opportunity, may be! How proud brahmins must have been if that had happened!!!
    Reply
    1. S
      Saurabh
      Feb 8, 2016 at 12:13 pm
      It's victory of people over oppressive policies of government.
      Reply
      1. S
        Saurabh
        Feb 8, 2016 at 5:03 pm
        Buddy, people organised online campaign in favor of net neutrality that is why govt. had to take back it's proposal. Your comments on me shows ur AUKAAT and I'll not reply you in your words to come down at ur level. ...
        Reply
        1. S
          Saurabh
          Feb 8, 2016 at 5:06 pm
          Language you are using reveals ur background. The more u comment, more u r exposing urself and ur party supporters
          Reply
          1. B
            Bean.counter.brahmins
            Feb 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm
            Only BEAN COUNTER RAJESH knows how much is 1 1. Great intelligence Rajesh.
            Reply
            1. V
              Veer Sanghi
              Feb 8, 2016 at 8:57 pm
              The congis who have put their moles in TRAI have done this to undermine the Great DIGITAL INDIA project and vision of our GREAT leader Moddiji, for whom even Zkerberg and Facebook and Gooogle and even Obaama fell on his feet to bring internet for free to India. If it was done, instead of Sunny, Moddiji would easily become the most searched person on gooogle and Facebook and Twitter. TRAAI have spoilt the deal between Moddiji and his Digital India partners from USA who had worked in close collaboration with Guujaratti NR to implement the Digital India plan by providing content rich free internet for Moddiji and India. Now what will happen if Facebook and Twitter decide that after this deal has falle, they ban all tweets and status updates from Moddiji that are eagerly awaited by billions of his followers in India, Bharat and rest of the world? That is the conspiracy by anti progress seeckulars and Khhujriwalla and Paappu and I S I and I S I S to oppose and destroy the great vision of Moddiji working under the Noble Social Organisation R S S to take India to the heights of glory by using internet through Facebook and Twitter. But these designs of seditious T R A I will never succeed, soon they will find themselves in company of Hhardikc Pat tel, all of whom deserv fansi for their sedi ttion against Moddiji, Bharat, R S S and India.
              Reply
              1. R
                Rajesh
                Feb 8, 2016 at 3:29 pm
                Really? Shocking news. Ch..tiya.
                Reply
                1. R
                  Rajesh
                  Feb 8, 2016 at 2:23 pm
                  *1 plus 1 equal
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    Rajesh
                    Feb 8, 2016 at 2:25 pm
                    Bhai, if he had a brain he would be a supporter of the Modi govt. Only bootlickers and s join the opposition. Have you ever heard any of them offer an intelligent reason for anything? They hate Modi since 2002; nothing they say should be taken seriously. And the 2014 election showed the people dont believe their lies.
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      Kishor
                      Feb 8, 2016 at 3:20 pm
                      TRAI is the govt...Bhakts and their logics. TRAI is an Independent regulator like RBI, IRDA and SEBI. All these bodies how to control the players in their industry as per their own mandate. Government has no role to play in the pro-people decision taken by TRAI. Had the pro-corporate pro-rich anti-poor government had its way, Free Basics would have been allowed the day Modi and Zucku hugged each other. Btw, want a bhakt to answer- Why this so called Pro-people government abolished custom duty exemption on Cancer medicines making the medicines costly for patients?
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        Pradeep Shetty
                        Feb 8, 2016 at 2:22 pm
                        Mulla!
                        Reply
                        1. D
                          disgusted
                          Feb 8, 2016 at 10:31 pm
                          I am not a leftie and YET I support TRAI's ruling.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Sanjeev
                            Feb 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm
                            Its is a win for the people and a check for greedy billion dollar corporations who just cannot be content despite having bloated bank accounts! Thanks to the truly people's government for the ruling.
                            Reply
                            1. R
                              rahul mayank
                              Feb 8, 2016 at 1:40 pm
                              Trai is part of government which has ruled in favor of people .. .whereas facebook, reliance, airtel are not.... know the difference before blaming govt. for every thing.
                              Reply
                              1. K
                                Krish Menon
                                Feb 8, 2016 at 3:35 pm
                                And where is that Pappu - who kept asking questions that he himself will never be able to understand in this life? Not a peep from him!
                                Reply
                                1. K
                                  Krish Menon
                                  Feb 8, 2016 at 3:34 pm
                                  Kudos to the govt of the day for upholding the rights of the citizens for equality as far as internet is concerned. Great job TRAI.
                                  Reply
                                  1. K
                                    Khannaarp
                                    Feb 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm
                                    I really admire the consent of TRAI on free basics. This will be the milestone in the building of India economy more stronger and powerfull.
                                    Reply
                                    1. K
                                      kulaputra kulaputra
                                      Feb 9, 2016 at 1:47 am
                                      I wonder how many of the commentators below cared to respond to TRAI questions ? Do they have an idea of what this means. IE would have done better to do higher quality reporting.
                                      Reply
                                      1. K
                                        kulaputra kulaputra
                                        Feb 9, 2016 at 1:45 am
                                        It is a deep issue that you will not try to understand. It has nothing to do with Cong - I. There is no politics. The battle was fought by people who understand what is internet, what is it power and why to benefit the poor, it must not be enslaved by Facebook. Kudos to Shri Modi and Ravi Shankar Prasad that they did not interfere with TRAI. It is pro people and not anti people but tough for that to sink in.
                                        Reply
                                        1. K
                                          kulaputra kulaputra
                                          Feb 9, 2016 at 12:09 am
                                          Lefties talk otherwise usually. Contradictions
                                          Reply
                                          1. D
                                            Dr.M.M.HAZARIKA PhD
                                            Feb 9, 2016 at 6:24 am
                                            There exist a QUESTION. While we adore the decision of TRAI for suggesting to impose a Net Neutrality within the Country; we feel it should be done with some stricture imposed or else we might loss Revenue while engaging ourselves in international compeion. With high transmission rate; one can penetrate all servers most at ease to force to collapse an Insution of repute. It is therefore suggested that we must stop doing of any Monetary Transaction through use of high speed Internet (arresting the others having slow speed); fooling the others who too are doing the same Business.
                                            Reply
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