Ruling in favour of “Net neutrality” in the count-ry, telecom regulator Trai on Monday barred all telecom operators from offering discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
Ruling in favour of “Net neutrality” in the count-ry, telecom regulator Trai on Monday barred all telecom operators from offering discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. This implies that telecom operators will have to charge the same price for data used, irrespective of website or app accessed by the consumer.
Websites and apps can’t pay telecom operators to ensure that subscribers can access their content on the Internet for free or at a lesser price. Trai’s new regulation means an end to Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel’s zero rating plans in India. Trai said such plans were violating “two key principles of tariff regulation: non-discrimination and transparency”.
While the regulation comes into force immediately, it can be challenged in the courts.
“No service provider (telecom operator) shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content,” said Trai.
Trai provided for a penalty of Rs 50,000 for each day on service providers if they flout this order. This penalty will be subject to a maximum of Rs 50 lakhs. Trai’s decision on whether a telecom operator was in contravention of the regulation will be final and binding. Trai will review these regulations in two years or on any earlier date as it may deem fit.
If a consumer is already using a package or voucher that allows differential pricing, he or she can use it for a maximum of six months.
In recent months there has been a sharp debate on whether services like Free Basics should be allowed in India. This is the first-ever such regulation from Trai, which saw record participation by 24 lakh people during the consultation round.
Under Free Basics, users could access some websites including Facebook for free without paying Internet charges on the Reliance Communications network. The social media giant had claimed Free Basics is to introduce people to the value of the Internet through hundreds of free basic services, beyond Facebook. Facebook had even launched a high-pitched marketing campaign to promote Free Basics.
However, Trai said that allowing a telecom operator to charge differentially for data “could compromise the entire architecture of the Internet itself”. Indians started debating the issue of Net neutrality after Bharti Airtel in
December 2014 decided to charge separately for calls made over the Internet. But after facing a lot of criticism, the company was forced to suspend this decision.