Trai victory for Net Neutrality

Trai victory for Net Neutrality

Giving a big boost to Net Neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday barred telecom operators from charging different rates for access to the web depending on the content.

The decision is seen as a major setback to Facebook's controversial Free Basics and other such plans offering differential data tariffs. “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content,” said Trai chairman R S Sharma, while unveiling the details of the regulations titled “Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016,” effective from Monday itself.

The regulator also said if any telecom operators violate the ruling, they would be fined a minimum of Rs 50,000 per day and up to a maximum of Rs 50 lakh. The regulation is described as a boost to Net Neutrality as internet activists earlier said any differential pricing to access web would violate the principle as it restricts access to free and open Internet.

“Anything on Internet cannot be differently priced. This is the broad point that we have highlighted in the regulation,” said Sharma.

Plans which are active in contravention of the new regulations should cease to exist in 6 months, Sharma said, adding that the new regulations have been notified in the Gazette and are effective from Monday itself. When asked about telecom operators providing their own applications or services like music, movie applications at discounted or reduced rates to their subscribers, Sharma said: “Let's not talk about specific product or services. Anything available on Internet should not be priced indiscriminately.” However, service providers have been allowed to reduce tariff for access in case of providing emergency services.

“We have not defined emergency services. But in case of such services, operators have to inform Trai within 7 working days,” said Sharma. The new regulations come amid a long-running debate on Net Neutrality where Facebook has been facing flak for its “Free Basics” platform, while operators like Airtel have been at the receiving end for similar plans announced earlier.
DH News Service      

What is differential pricing?
Differential pricing or zero rating is where service providers offer free data to users for select applications and websites for example, Facebook’s Free Basics.

Raging debate
 Debate on Net Neutrality picked up across the country after Airtel decided to charge separately for Internet-based calls in December 2014, but withdrew it later after protests
 The debate heated up after Airtel launched free Internet platform Airtel Zero and later Facebook also launched Internet.Org, renamed as Free Basics

Reactions
Facebook expresses disappointment. Company says it will adversely impact Free Basics
Internet activists, political parties, IT Industry bodies Nasscom and IAMAI hail ruling

TRAI says 
No service provider should offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content
No service provider shall enter into any arrangement that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs 
Failure to comply will attract Rs 50,000 fine per day up to Rs 50 lakh 
Will review decision after two years or at an earlier date 
Existing plans should cease to exist in 6 months
Now new plans on this issue from Monday itself

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