TRAI in Favour of Net Neutrality

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Monday issued the ‘Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016’ that does not allow service providers from offering or charging biased tariffs for data services on the basis of content.

  1. No service provider can offer or charge biased tariffs on the basis of the content.
  2. No service provider can enter into an agreement or contract with any person for the purpose of evading the prohibition of offering or charging discriminatory tariffs in this regulation.
  3. The service providers are allowed to provide reduced tariff at times of public emergency or for accessing or providing emergency tariffs.
  4. Financial impediments, for the infringement of the regulations were also provided. If service providers charge a discriminatory tariff they will have to pay penalty of Rs. 50,000 per day.
  5. TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.

Net-Neutrality

These regulations came in the midst of the ongoing debate over net neutrality in the country.

Earlier, TRAI had issued two consultation papers – one in December 2016 which was about differential data pricing and the one in early 2015 about over-the-top (OTT) services.

The consultation paper on differential data pricing had raised concern over zero-rating tariff models which is a practice wherein service providers offer free data to users for particular applications and websites. This paper had become the key to the debate over Net Neutrality.

According to Internet activists, this model violates the principle of Net neutrality since it restricts access to free, open Internet. Facebook’s Free Basic initiative was severely criticized in India as it is based on a zero-rating model (also called sponsored data). TRAI has also asked Reliance Communication, Facebook’s partner in India for Free Basics, to put the service on hold till the authority considers all the details and terms and conditions of the service.

By Kalyani Menon

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