Net neutrality: deadline for feedback extended

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on December 30, 2015

TRAI has received around 16.5 lakh comments till date, and commentsreceived through Facebook or ‘Free Basics’ platform are around 8 lakh

Comments on differential pricing of services may be submitted by January 7, says TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday extended the last date for receipt of written comments/views on the consultation paper on ‘Differential Pricing for Data Services’ to January 7.

The paper was released on December 9, and had invited written comments from stakeholders by Wednesday and counter comments, if any, by January 7.

“On the request of the stakeholders, the last date for receipt of written comments views has been extended up to January 7 and counter comments, if any, up to January 14,” it said in a statement.

It has also been decided that no request for any further extension of time for submission of comments/counter comments shall be entertained, the sector regulator said. Although, the regulator has not used the term ‘Net neutrality’ or mentioned the words, it has details of zero-rating platform that has led to many debates across the country.

Current status

According to sources, TRAI has received around 16.5 lakh comments till date, and comments received through Facebook or ‘Free Basics’ platform are around 8 lakh. The regulator has also received a similar number of messages from people opposing Facebook’s ‘Free Basics’ and other zero-rating programmes, and around 3,000 individual messages.

The regulator’s paper mentions some plans that amount to differential tariffs of the telecom service providers who offer zero or discounted tariffs to certain contents of certain websites or applications or platforms.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the representative body of Internet companies, said TRAI has three models of differential pricing, all of which violate the basic principles of Net neutrality.

“In addition to being against Net neutrality, the differential pricing models suggested by TRAI prima facie also violate the regulator’s own stated principles of intervening in pricing,” Subho Ray, President of IAMAI, said on Wednesday.

The principles, as stated in the paper, are non-discriminatory, transparent, non-anti competitive, non-predatory, non-ambiguous, and non-misleading, but “most of the models suggested by TRAI seem to violate one or all of these principles”, Ray added. However, Telecom Watchdog, a non-governmental organisation, said that TRAI should not reject any proposal that offers free services to the general public, including the one being offered by Facebook (Free Basics).

“In case the need arises, issues regarding any discriminatory behaviour can be tackled through Model Standard Interconnect Agreement, which has been a common practice in TRAI in such situations. So far, from the consultation paper it appears that no such incidence has come across,” Anil Kumar, Secretary, Telecom Watchdog, said in its response to the TRAI’s consultation paper.

“We hope the decision will be taken in favour of consumers without denying them free access to services wherever available. Already, consumers are burdened with heavy charges on using data services,” he added in the letter.

Published on December 30, 2015
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