Questioning Trai’s working on call drop issue and net neutrality framework, MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has said steps need to be taken to improve capability and powers of the regulator.
In a letter to Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Chandrasekhar said, “… both on areas of consumer interest and investor confidence, TRAI’s recent performance needs examination, and steps need to be taken to improve its capability and powers.”
He said that the recent Supreme Court judgement quashing regulation of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on call drops has left consumers at the “mercy of mobile operators”.
“It also points to serious lacunae, both with regards to the procedural rigour and capacity/expertise that the TRAI possesses in matters of consumer interest,” he said.
“Consumers are at the same place on a number of key issues concerning their welfare, albeit due to TRAI’s problems and despite the government’s good intentions and objectives.”
He said that while the discussion on net neutrality across media, consumer groups and especially in Parliament is nearly 18 months old, “there is no roadmap or timelines in place on how to deal with this situation.”
TRAI had launched a Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for OTT Services on March 27, 2015.
“Regrettably, that proceeding lies incomplete even after 15 months,” he said.
A Department of Telecom Committee has issued its report on Net Neutrality around a year ago but government is waiting for Trai’s recommendations before it frames rules of net neutrality in the country. The DoT has sent reference to Trai seeking its recommendations on net neutrality.
“However, while that Reference is pending, it is unclear as to when this Consultation will begin and towards what end. Yet again, the interest of consumers, but equally uncertainty amongst investors – both telcos and content providers – remains unaddressed,” Chandrasekhar said.
He also said that Trai’s regulation on discriminatory pricing on internet, an important part of net neutrality, “suffers from serious technical and implementation flaws in addition to making inferior regulatory choices of outright ‘ban’.”
Trai regulation on discriminatory pricing led to ban on free internet platforms like Airtel Zero and Facebook’s Free Basics.
He wrote that he in February 2016 had pointed pointed these lacunae in detail to the TRAI.
“No surprise then that the TRAI, in less than four months, has come up with a second Consultation Paper on Free Data dated May 19, 2016, on the exact same issues- in an attempt to find a face saver for its decision to ‘ban’ differential pricing,” Chandrasekhar said.
On the other hand, Trai Chairman R S Sharma has clarified that the consultation process on free data is to explore way for starting “toll free” kind of service in data world.