TRAI has ruled against differential pricing for data services in a major support to Net Neutrality. The TRAI ruling can be seen as a blow to Facebook’s Free Basics, Airtel Zero and other similar data services which offered access to some websites and content for free, while the TSP would continue charging for others which were not included in the program.
Here are the important takeaways based on TRAI’s order which can be accessed here
1. TRAI has ruled that no service provider shall offer or allow discriminatory pricing for data services based on content.
2. It has ruled against any arrangement or agreement between any service provider or any person that adheres to differential pricing for data services.
3. TRAI has allowed for special reduction of tariff for accessing or providing emergency services during times of public emergency. The authority has asked for the same to be reported within seven working days.
4. The telecom regulator has ruled that if a service provider is found violating the regulation, there will be a penalty of Rs 50,000 for each day of contravention, subject to a maximum of Rs 50 Lakhs.
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5. TRAI has argued against the idea that differential pricing of data services could benefit users and help get more Indians on the Internet. It states, “Allowing service providers to define the nature of access would be equivalent of letting TSPs shape the users’ internet experience.”
6. TRAI has clearly backed Net Neutrality by referring to 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.”
7. TRAI has also exempted intranets or closed communication networks from this regulation, but has added a caveat saying if a closed network is used for the purpose of evading these regulations then the prohibition will definitely apply.
8. TRAI has stated that it may review the regulation after two years.
In a nutshell, TRAI has ruled against differential pricing in order to keep the Internet open and non-discriminatory for users. TRAI’s ruling aims to de-link content and discriminatory pricing as some zero-rating platforms had proposed.
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