TRAI: Give 100 MB a month free data to rural area subs

NEW DELHI: India’s telecoms and broadcast carriage regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended to the government to provide limited free data to rural subscribers as part of efforts to boost e-payments and digital economy.

“In order to bridge the affordability gap for the persons residing in rural areas and to support government’s efforts towards cashless economy by incentivising digital means, the Authority recommends that a scheme under which a reasonable amount of data, say 100 MB per month, may be made available to rural subscribers for free,” TRAI said in a set of recommendations on Monday on `Encouraging Data Usage in Rural Areas Through Provisioning of Free Data’.

TRAI further stated that greater broadband access, particularly for large parts of the rural population can be the force to drive integration of the “unconnected and the underserved in economy”, thereby helping to enhance the overall value of the network.

“Greater broadband access has the power to augment productivity of the agricultural sector as well as small enterprises, facilitate easier and more efficient participation of the rural population in governance, generate new employment opportunities and enable a host of services like e-commerce, e-learning, e-banking etc. As an increasing number of government services are also being electronically delivered, expanding rural Internet access has become a matter of urgency and is essential in fulfilling the vision of Digital India,” TRAI said.

The regulator further suggested that the cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from the fund that telecom operators contribute to spread telecom connectivity in rural areas or known as USOF.

TRAI also suggested that to increase participation of other entities for incentivizing free data, there is a need to introduce third party (aggregator) to facilitate schemes that are TSPs or telecom service provider agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation and that this scheme for free data must not involve any arrangement between the TSP and the aggregator/content provider and should not be designed to circumvent TRAI directives banning discriminatory tariffs for data.

As part of the process, TRAI has suggested that the aggregators will need to register with Department of Telecoms (DoT); the registrant must be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956; the validity of registration shall be for five years; the registrant shall not either directly or indirectly assign or transfer the registration in any manner whatsoever to a third party either in whole or in part.

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