While telecos are not too happy with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s proposal for TSP-agnostic platforms to provide free data, other companies and groups have also responded to the paper.
On May 19, TRAI released a consultation paper on how to provide free data for consumers and whether a TSP-agnostic platform was one possible solution. TRAI in its paper asked if it was possible to give out free data as rewards to customers, and whether such models should be regulated.
Here’s a look at responses of other players like Paytm, Hike Messenger, Nasscom, Centre for Internet Society, etc to TRAI’s paper.
Paytm’s response indicates it views TSP-agnostic platforms for free data as being against the principles of Net Neutrality.
In the response Paytm has said, “Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) being the producers/owners of data have an undue advantage compared to others if award is provided in the form of free data. Award in the form of free data can be used to replicate the effect of zero cost of access for selected sites, an outcome that is against the principle of Net Neutrality.”
The company says free data won’t solve the problem and instead of giving data back as rewards, a neutral currency should be employed as an incentive.
Tablet maker Datawind has also responded to the paper and said that a “TSP-agnostic platform as suggested in this consultation paper would benefit the ability of content providers and application providers in delivering affordable internet access.”
Datawind’s statement says breaking the affordability barrier is a key issue in increasing broadband adoption in India, and “this consultation-paper is an important step towards exploring such solutions.”
Hike Messenger has also argued in favour of a “TSP-agnostic platform” and say it can allow “start-ups like ours to purchase data in bulk that in turn we can use to make certain parts of the app free.”
The response reads, “TSP agnostic platform would allow data purchase from all TSPs in the market and have a very transparent approval process to ensure that no malicious apps abuse (similar to how the Google Play Store operates) and a pricing plan/rate card that would allow start-ups to purchase data potentially availing of discounts based on volume.”
It also favours some “light regulation should be employed” in case TRAI does adopt this model.
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Internet Democracy Project
The Internet Democracy Project is a Delhi-based civil society group, which looks at free Internet in India and argues that TSP-agnostic model won’t ensure non-discrimination.
Their response reads, “Rewards for continued use of apps/websites negatively affect low cost of application innovation.” The group asks TRAI to “develop a principle-based framework to preserve the Internet’s ability to function as an open and free infrastructure.”
Centre for Internet and Society
Centre for Internet and Society, which is based in Bangalore, points out TRAI would actually have no powers about such TSP-agnostic platforms, “so the question of TRAI regulating does not arise.”
It also points there would be no need to regulate price discrimination if ISPs were not gate-keepers and such “‘Gatekeeping’ occurs when a single entity establishes itself as an exclusive route to reach a large number of people and businesses or, in network terms, nodes.”
The comment adds, “the aim of regulation by TRAI cannot be to prevent gate-keeping, since that is not possible as long as there are a limited number of ISPs,” and says more competition is the only way to fix this issue.
The group also points out that a “TSP-agnostic rewards platform will only come within the scope of TRAI regulation if the platform has some form of agreement with the TSPs, even if it is collectively.”
Mozilla foundation, which has helped create Firefox browser, points the models described by TRAI in its paper are might not be in line with the previous regulatory guidance in the Data Services regulation.
It also says the “toll free API and rewards-based incentives model” might “threaten the open Internet” in India. Mozilla also points “TSP-agnostic platforms do not per se assuage the threats to Internet openness arising from differential pricing.”
Industry body Nasscom has pointed out some of the models in the paper won’t be in line with the principles of Net Neutrality, and an Internet platform which is either TSP-agnostic or not is out TRAI’s purview.