Trai's face-off with Facebook escalates

Trai's face-off with Facebook escalates

A day before the open house discussion on differential pricing of data, a full-scale war of words broke out between the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and social networking giant Facebook (FB).

FB and the Trai have made public letters that were exchanged between them on  Net Neutrality. In a letter, the Trai slammed the campaign by Facebook for its Free Basics product as 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,” Trai said in its letter to FB on January 18.

According to the regulator, the campaign by Facebook to defend its free Internet platform Free Basics in India is “wholly misplaced” as “the consultation paper is on differential pricing for data services and not on any particular product or service”.

Countering Trai allegations, Facebook India said the company has been singled out. “We would note that we are not aware of a similar request (from Trai) having been made to any other commentator who did not answer these specific questions,” it said in the reply.

“And we continue to believe that the original comments submitted were responsive to the general questions raised in the consultation paper, which clearly covers such topics as the Free Basics programme,” Facebook Public Policy Director for India, South and Central Asia Ankhi Das said.

Facebook has alleged that someone at Trai’s office blocked email from its website which people used for sharing their comments on differential pricing issue — a key issue of Net Neutrality.

On this allegations, Trai cited a similar instance of a user complaint on non-functioning of an e-mail address during the response period, which was “brought to its notice and the situation was immediately rectified”.

 “It is surprising that it took over 25 days for you to inform Trai about this,” Trai said in the January 18 letter.

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