TRAI floats new Consulation paper, lists disadvantages of zero-rating plans

TRAI has floated a new paper listed on its website, questioning zero-rating platforms, although the paper does not mention Net Neutrality as such.

By: Tech Desk | Updated: December 13, 2015 2:27 pm

 Net Neutrality in India, TRAI paper, TRAI Paper on content services, TRAI paper on zero ratings, TRAI Zero-ratings view, TRAI latest report, TRAI papers, Internet in India, Net Neutrality, #NetNeutrality, #NetNeutralitynews, technology, technology newsTRAI, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, has floated a new paper listed on its website, questioning differential data pricing for content services, although the paper does not specifically mention the term Net Neutrality.

TRAI’s consultation paper titled, “Consultation Paper on Differential Pricing for Data Services,” raises concerns over zero-rating platforms being offering by TSPs in particular. The paper asks for comments on whether such differential pricing should be allowed. Stakeholders are expected to post their comments for the paper by December 30 and counter-comments are to be submitted by January 7.

TRAI’s new paper is looking at whether allowing zero-rating platforms can lead to discrimination in the market. According to Net Neutrality activists, such zero-rating platforms are in violation of the guiding principle of how the Internet should function.

Watch our videos on Net Neutrality 

The TRAI paper notes, “The objective of offering such schemes is claimed to be the desire of various service providers/content providers or platform providers to enable people of this country especially the poor to access certain content on the internet free of charge. There are a number of variations of these plans.

It goes on to read, “The net result of these offers is that it empowers/enables the TSPs to select certain content providers (either through the platforms or directly) and offer discounted access plans to these websites/applications/platforms.

Read also: We also believe strongly in Net Neutrality, says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 

The paper says that while it might give easy access to the websites on the zero-rating platform, “it may also result in making the entry of certain websites through the pipes of the TSPs more difficult.”

The TRAI paper says that TSPs could even “disincentivize access to certain websites by putting higher tariffs.” According to the regulator, allowing TSPs to give differential tariffs for certain websites/content providers, means that one is accepting the principle that these very TSPs can also make put “prohibitive” tariffs for other websites, thus restricting Internet access.

Must see: DoT’s Net Neutrality report: Here are all your questions answered 

TRAI accepts that zero-rating might help accelerate the rate of Internet access in the country, but there are several negative effects that might ensue and that these plans may go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff.

Blog: Mark Zuckerberg’s support for ‘Net Neutrality’: Why it is a false argument

The regulator says that such tariffs put small content providers at a disadvantage and “creates entry barriers and non-level playing field for these players stifling innovation.” These are arguments that Net Neutrality activists have also put against zero-rating platforms by TSPs.

TRAI’s paper says that “the tariff offerings have to be studied from the perspective of whether it promotes or harms competition.”

It raises the concerns that such discriminatory pricing may even lead to TSPs promoting their  own “websites/apps/services platforms by giving lower rates for accessing them.” The paper also gives suggestions as to how such practices can be curbed and says that if free Internet access is ‘delinked’ from specific content, then it would be better.

In the end the paper puts forth 4 questions. These are as follows:

Should the TSPs be allowed to have differential pricing for data usage for accessing different websites, applications or platforms?

If differential pricing for data usage is permitted, what measures should be adopted to ensure that the principles of nondiscrimination, transparency, affordable internet access, competition and market entry and innovation are addressed?

Are there alternative methods/technologies/business models, other than differentiated tariff plans, available to achieve the objective of providing free internet access to the consumers? If yes, please suggest/describe these methods/technologies/business models. Also, describe the potential benefits and disadvantages associated with such methods/technologies/business models?

Is there any other issue that should be considered in the present consultation on differential pricing for data services?

The full paper can be access here.

Read our full coverage on Net Neutrality here

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  1. B
    Bharat
    Dec 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm
    When a person can buy a net compatible smartphone, he/she can very well pay for the data. In India data is not expensive. You can get a monthly plan in less than 1.5 USD. In prepaid even a dime is enough to perform many text based services. Certainly aware people will prefer exploring the ocean than a bucket of services provided by FB. If FB gets its way, it will be the most profitable company in the history. The generations to come from those countries will be the biggest losers who will think Internet is FB and FB is Internet. And how this Free Basic will demolish the entrepreneurship and level playing field, can be seen by just one example. To gain market share you don’t need to be providing the best products, services and rise to the top through your sheer intelligence, hard work and professionalism. Even if you are so-so in all the other things, but you are able to cut a deal with Facebook to get included in the Free Basic, your market share will shoot up overnight. Now, as an entrepreneur, among other things, I will also have to think how to please Facebook and conform to its guidelines so that my content finds a place on Facebook’s server to be streamed to the larger audience or w of India. Free Basic is going to be a huge roadblock on the way to Make-In-India, Startup-India Stand-up India, Innovate India. No one will have access to the m potion without conforming to the whims and fancies of Facebook.
    Reply
    1. T
      T.V. SIVAKUMARAN
      Dec 11, 2015 at 12:49 am
      Why should 'net neutrality' affect, say, free provision ( without data charges) of certain services to the poor, like net-banking for transfer of funds, availing health services and the like. In the name of freedom of Press, should we penalise newspapers which price their publications low, so that more people can access them? How is this different ? The so-called net neutrality is being propagated as some sacred principle and used to deny universal cheap access to the internet based services . The TRAI, as a regulator, should list certain essential services which can be offered free of data charges, instead of beating the drums for 'net neutrality'.
      Reply
      1. G
        Gill
        Dec 10, 2015 at 9:13 am
        Instead of offering Differential Pricing for Data Services service providers can instead offer free use of Internet for a limited time per day like 30 minutes or 1 hour per day
        Reply