Amid debate over zero-rating plans and telecom firms offering discounted tariffs for accessing certain websites, TRAI today come out with a consultation paper seeking views if such differential pricing should be allowed. Also Read - Airtel 5G Mumbai trials show download speeds of 1.2Gbps, upload at 850MbpsAlso Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAI
TRAI has asked stakeholders as to what steps should be taken to ensure principles of non-discrimination, transparency, affordable Internet access, competition, market entry and innovation are adhered to, in case differential pricing is allowed. Also Read - TRAI's new SMS regulations will prevent spam, fraudulent messages: Here's how
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said some plans introduced in the recent past amount to differential pricing that offer zero or discounted tariffs to certain content of select websites or applications or platforms. Activists have said the principle of Net neutrality is against any priority being accorded to an entity in Internet traffic flow on account of payments to service providers like telecom companies.
Meanwhile, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in Parliament today that the government will take a final view on the issue of Net neutrality after TRAI submits its recommendations on the matter. According to a TRAI official, some of the operators are offering plans where they give discounted tariffs to access certain applications like WhatsApp, Facebook and the like, and there are certain platforms that allow access to certain websites free of cost.
Airtel Zero is an open marketing platform that lets customers access a variety of mobile applications for free, with data charges being paid by start-ups and large firms. Similarly, Facebook’s Internet.org allows access to certain websites without mobile data charges.
TRAI said the objective of offering such schemes is claimed to be the desire of various service, content or platform providers to enable users, especially the poor, to access certain content on the Internet free of charge. The stakeholders can send back their comments on the consultation paper by December 30 and counter comments by January 7.
Commenting on the issue Facebook responded:
We are committed to working with TRAI to uphold the principles of affordable and innovative internet access for India in a fair and consistent manner. During the consultation process, we hope the focus is on the issues that matter most. That actual data on the program showcases three very important facts: First, Free Basics works and is bringing more people online by serving as a bridge to the full, paid internet. Second, we listened to the initial concerns and changed Free Basics so the program is non-discriminatory, non-exclusive and open to all developers. Finally, there is no doubt that Free Basics is already helping people. Many thousands of people have applied for jobs as a result of the program. We also know that healthcare information has been accessed millions of times on Free Basics. We hope those involved in this discussion consider the broader consequences of halting or limiting programs that help people connect and improve their lives.