Regulators

TRAI seeks to seek clarity on net neutrality

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NEW DELHI: Stretching the discussion on net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wants to know whether there is a need to have TSP agnostic platform to provide free data or suitable reimbursement to users, without violating the principles of Differential Pricing for Data laid down in TRAI Regulation.

In a consultation paper on Free Data, TRAI has asked stakeholders to suggest the most suitable model to achieve the objective. Replies have to be filed by 16 June with counter replies if any by 30 June.

The Regulator also wants to know whether such platforms need to be regulated by the TRAI or the market should be allowed to develop these platforms.

It also wants to know if free data or suitable reimbursement to users should be limited to mobile data users only or could it be extended through technical means to subscribers of fixed line broadband or leased line.

The paper says that in the recent past, some data services plans of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) came to the notice of TRAI which amounted to discriminatory tariff through offering zero or discounted tariffs to certain contents of certain websites/applications/platforms. The objective of offering such plans was claimed to be the desire of various service providers/content providers or platform providers to enable people of this country, especially the poor, to access certain content on the internet free of charge.

It said there were a number of variations of these plans; however, the intention was the same. Under one design, an entity had created a platform wherein content providers and TSPs could register and subject to the approval of the platform provider, the customers of the TSPs, registered on the platform, were able to access those websites (either in full or only certain content of those websites) which were listed on this platform. Another method was to provide discounted data offers by the TSPs for some identified websites/apps. The idea, as stated before, was to provide free internet service to the users of the TSPs. The net result of these offers was that it empowers/enables the TSPs to select certain content providers (either through the platforms or directly) and offer discounted access plans to these websites/applications/platforms.

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