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Airtel, Vodafone oppose Trai’s free internet plan

| PAWAN BALI
Published : Jul 7, 2016, 2:43 am IST
Updated : Jul 7, 2016, 2:43 am IST

India’s two largest telecom operators Airtel and Vodafone have questioned whether Trai proposal to create a telecom agnostic platform to offer people free Internet could not create a gatekeeper to con

India’s two largest telecom operators Airtel and Vodafone have questioned whether Trai proposal to create a telecom agnostic platform to offer people free Internet could not create a gatekeeper to control which content people could see and use.

In February, Trai had upheld the principle of net neutrality and barred telecom operators from offering discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content forcing Facebook to stop its Free Basics in the country.

In May, however, Trai came out with a new consultation paper to look at ways to provide consumers free internet service within the net neutrality framework.

Trai had said that it got representations that there is a need to have some telecom operator agnostic platform which can facilitate app developer to promote their website by providing some incentive to user for making their website popular.

“If free data can be offered by a non-telecom service provider, then there is no basis or rationale for the authority to exclude the telecom operators, especially in view of the fact that a telecom operator agnostic platform could also indulge in the gatekeeping functions,” said Vodafone in a representation to Trai.

Vodafone said that if a telecom service provider (TSP) agnostic platform is to be regulated, “then why can a similar platform not be offered by TSPs who already operate under a regulatory framework.”

Vodafone said that Trai can regulate a TSP as against a non-TSP and “hence if at all any such free data framework is to be developed then it should be structured through TSPs.”

Airtel said that it is a myth that TSPs may act as a gatekeeper and compromise the growth of some content providers or affect their level playing field or freedom of internet. Airtel said that telecom operators hold a valid telecom licence and conduct their business under a regulatory framework.

“Even the thought behi-nd a TSP agnostic platform shows an unfounded mistrust towards the licensed and heavily regulated TSP, without any actual evidence of any TSP acting against the growth of internet.”

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi