Bingo ! TRAI Bans differential pricing of data service
Finally, TRAI took the decision in favor of Net Neutrality and saved the Internet.”
The telecom regulatory sector WatchGuard, TRAI will move on with Net Neutrality and has banned differential pricing data services for India, against Facebook’s free internet scheme.
The regulator said:
All content on the internet needs to be available at the same data price. A violation will lead to a fine of Rs. 50,000 per day. This (ban) will disallow any program or project which works on the architecture of differential pricing,” said the regulator, stressing that “content agnostic” access to the internet is the operating principle, though it added that data charges can be dropped during public emergencies like flooding.”
The various data packs that currently offer discounted rates for some content will not be yanked and customers can use them till they expire, said the regulator, adding that it is the “convenience of users” that is the over-riding concern.”
According to TRAI:
Allowing service providers to charge differently for different services or data usage could “compromise the entire architecture of the internet”. In addition to that, TRAI has also prohibited the launch of any new data plans or vouchers.”
No service provider shall enter into any arrangement or contract that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services.”
Prohibition of discriminatory tariff is necessary to ensure that service providers continue to fulfill obligations in keeping internet open and non-discriminatory.”
In partnership with Reliance Telecom in India, Facebook planned to offer pared-down web services on mobile phones, along with access to Facebook’s own social network and messaging services, without any charge.
TRAI has also said:
The regulations will be implemented on immediately and that if violated, companies might have to pay fines starting from Rs.50,000 to a disincentive of Rs. 50 lakhs.
Yes, that means Airtel’s Zero and Facebook’s Free Basics will not be allowed!
TRAI received 24 lakh responses in December over their Consultation Paper on ‘Differential Pricing for Data Services’, on the basis of all responses, it has issued the following mandatory regulations:
- No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
- No service provider 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 by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
- Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
- Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified.
A few weeks ago, TRAI suspended Free Basics arguing that it violates the principle of net neutrality, the concept that all websites on the internet are treated equally. Differential pricing would put small content providers and start-ups at a disadvantage, say critics who launched a massive consumer awareness program to lobby TRAI. Those who have taken on Free Basics include founders of some of the most successful internet companies in India, as well as faculty at prestigious academic institutions like the IITS. They argue that if the Facebook scheme is allowed, it would confer huge gate-keeping powers on the online giant, allowing it to decide what content users access – and that content would be either its own or that of its partners.
TRAI Chairman RS Sharma said:
Anything on the internet cannot be differentially priced.”
If you’re still figuring out, why this is such a huge blow to Facebook, they have spent a whopping Rs. 300 crores to advertise for and encourage people to sign up for their Free Basics.
Great to see TRAI backing #NetNeutrality! Let’s keep the Internet free and independent.
Well done TRAI ! Keep it up.
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