As expected, Facebook has expressed disappointment over the TRAI ruling on discriminatory data pricing. The social networking giant, which had run extensive campaign to push its Free Basics program in India, added it will continue to make efforts to provide “an easier path to the Internet.” Also Read - TRAI to moot mechanism for displaying KYC-based caller nameAlso Read - 5G will contribute $450 billion to India’s economy in coming 15 years, says Union Minister Piyush Goyal
“Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the internet and the opportunities it brings, a Facebook spokesperson told BGR India in an emailed statement.
The statement comes after the TRAI ruled against the differential data pricing in the country, barring service providers from offering or charging discriminatory tariffs for data on the basis of content.
It may be recalled that the TRAI and Facebook had found themselves at loggerheads after the regulator slammed the social media giant of making a public engagement exercise into a “crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll.”
Your urging has the flavor of reducing this meaningful consultative exercise designed to produce informed decisions in a transparent manner into a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll. Neither the spirit nor the letter of a consultative process warrants such an interpretation which, if accepted, has dangerous ramifications for policy-making in India, the regulator had then said.
The regulator had also turned down responses of Facebook users supporting Free Basics via a pre-drafted message by Facebook, stating the messages didn t answer any question raised by TRAI in its consultation paper, and that they needed to resubmitted again.
Facebook’s Free Basics program envisioned to provide free access to certain Internet services handpicked by Facebook that met its technical requirements. Facebook had partnered with RCom to launch Free Basics in India. According to reports, Facebook had spent Rs 300 crore on advertising for Free Basics in India.
We re aiming to get the facts out to as many people as possible, whether they re connected today or will be in the future, a Facebook spokesperson had said while defending the spending.
It will be interesting to see how Facebook modifies its Free Basics program in India, or decides to abandon the program altogether. The social networking giant is running a pilot for Express Wi-Fi service that would enable users to access free or affordable access to the entire Internet.
We are currently in the early stages of testing Express Wi-Fi, which would empower a local Indian entrepreneur to purchase an inexpensive set of hardware and start a business to offer Internet access to their town or region. This program allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages to access the Internet via local hotspots, Facebook India s Country Manager for Connectivity Solutions, Munish Seth had earlier told BGR India.
Meanwhile, the carrier lobby body, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), has also expressed disappointment over the TRAI verdict.
The telecom industry is disappointed with TRAI s decision to rule out differential pricing. COAI had approached the regulator with the reasons to allow price differentiation as the move would have taken us closer to connecting the one billion unconnected citizens of India. By opting to turn away from this opportunity, TRAI has ignored all the benefits of price differentiation that we had submitted as a part of the industry s response to its consulting paper, including improving economic efficiency, increase in broadband penetration, reduction in customer costs and provision of essential services among other things, Rajan Mathews, Director General, COAI said in a statement.
In our opinion, TRAI s regulation on prohibiting differential pricing constitutes a welfare-reducing measure of high concern by blocking a possible avenue for our less-advantaged citizens to move to increased economic growth and prosperity by harnessing the power of the Internet. We believe that this measure will have an impact on the Government s ambitious Digital India initiative, he added.