Welcome Net Neutrality!
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced it’s decision on Net Neutrality today. According to Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016:
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 to the consumer on the basis of content
So, what this means is that no service provider can charge you differently on the basis of content it is providing. For example, if Airtel gets in to a collaboration with Facebook to provide Facebook surfing for free, then this arrangement will fall under this ruling and will be termed illegal. Moreover, according to TRAI, this will attract a penalty of Rs. 50,000 per day!
This decision has come in the wake of Free Basics campaign run by Facebook in India. This campaign had come under serious criticism. Industry experts termed this campaign as sabotage on free Internet and pushed for Net Neutrality.
TRAI’s report on Net Neutrality mentioned:
“It has been argued that differential pricing for data services is anti-competitive, non-transparent, discriminatory and against content innovation. The TSPs are custodians of public resource infrastructure that should be made available without discrimination, with differential pricing, the basic principle of internet as a neutral end-to-end carrier of information is violated and make the TSPs as gatekeepers. Such practices restrict consumer choice and is against the freedom of speech / expression and TRAI also asked Reliance Communications to put on hold it’s Free Basics partnership with Facebook.”
What is excluded and does not fall under Net Neutrality:
- Any reduced pricing for emergency services or services provided at times of grave public emergency
- Any content which is created, but not curated, by the service provider
This will mean if a service provider creates it’s own content and provides it to free / reduced pricing to it’s customers, it will not fall under this regulation.
This decision is a Welcome decision and indicates that the authority is moving in the right direction. My own view is that if the differential pricing had been allowed, it would have created another ‘caste system’ in the Internet. And at the time when most of the growth factors in India are dependent on Internet and accessibility.
You can get the full text PFD from TRAI’s website.