Trai to take call on data pricing

Trai to take call on data pricing

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India  (Trai) said on Thursday that it would make its stand clear on the controversial differential pricing for data service by January end.

“Taking into account of all suggestions, the Trai will come out with the regulation by the month-end on the issue,” said R S Sharma, chairman Trai, after an open house session with stakeholders here.

In the open house discussion on “differential pricing of data service”, which was attended by telecom, internet activists, representatives of telecom firms and individuals, a large number of people opposed the differential pricing of data as well as Facebook’s Free Basics campaign.

While pitching for allowing differential pricing, a key aspect of the entire debate, telecom firms including Facebook argued that differential pricing for data is critical to growth.

Opposing differential pricing, Net Neutrality activists said it amounts to curbs on freedom of choice to access the Internet.

While telecom operators, including Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Communications and their respective associations have supported differential pricing for data services, Internet service providers have railed against it. However, industrial groups CII and Ficci are against differential pricing while Assocham backs the move.

Asked if Trai will also come out with a consultation paper on Net Neutrality, Sharma said, “I cannot at this point of time say what Trai can do in future in the larger issue of Net Neutrality, but we will certainly take a call.”

Trai and Facebook are locked in a war of words over the differential pricing debate. 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”.

Facebook has launched a massive campaign to project its Free Basics platform as a tool to spread Internet connectivity.

RCom launch

The regulator had earlier asked RCom to keep the commercial launch of Free Basics on hold till it finalises its recommendations on the matter.

When told that the service is still continuing, Sharma said, “As far as we know, we had requested the telecom company concerned to keep the commercial launch of the service in abeyance. They have confirmed to us in writing that the commercial launch has been kept in abeyance.”

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