Having barred discriminatory pricing of data services, TRAI on Tuesday warned of much stricter action against errant telecom operators if the existing penalty provision fails to tame them. “It’s not like that, that you can violate and continue paying penalty,” TRAI chairman R S Sharma said. Becoming the first telecom regulator globally to ban zero rating plans like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday backed net neutrality while issuing a new set of norms barring discriminatory prices for data services. 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 also levied Rs 50,000 per day penalty on violating operators. When asked if penalty fails to deter operators from complying with its regulations, the regulator said, “The contraventions are provided for. Then there is general kind of clause which says that if you contravene then there are other provisions that come into play. They may not be part of this regulation.” Also Read - TRAI's new SMS regulations will prevent spam, fraudulent messages: Here's how
“There are overall provisions which cover what happens if you contravene with any regulation of TRAI then there are other mechanism which are put in to place.” Some experts have expressed concerns that operators may pay the penalty and continue with business plans that may be in violation to TRAI’s latest regulation.
TRAI provided for a penalty of Rs 50,000 for each day on service providers if they flout the order. The penalty would be subject to a maximum of Rs 50 lakh. “It’s not like that, that you can violate and continue paying penalty. Once any tariff plan is announced that plan has to submitted to TRAI… we will see if it is contravention to the rules and then we will impose penalty,” Sharma said.
He, however, said that no penalty will be imposed unless TRAI serves notice to a company and that company gets a chance to present its case. Sharma said that operators can charge different rates at different time occasionally to better utilize their network but cannot charge different rates based on the content that they access using Internet.
“It may not be exact analogy but let me try to explain. If you are going on an expressway, the toll service provider should be only concerned about toll and not ask where I am going. These are the principles which we are saying you cannot charge differently based on content,” he said.
Sharma said that the regulation covers net neutrality only on tariff aspect and other components of this principle like throttling of Internet speed have not been addressed under it.
“Net neutrality as we understand constitutes number of components which are not purely tariff. We were dealing with some aspect of net neutrality from the tariff perspective. That’s what we have come out with because it is in our domain. There are many areas which are not in the domain of TRAI,” Sharma said.