Advertisement

  • News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
  • Editorial Calendar 19-20
BW Businessworld

Trai Rules Against Differential Pricing For Internet Services

Says Internet service providers would not be allowed to discriminate on pricing of data access for different web services

In a boost to net neutrality and a blow to Facebook and other operators offering differential data tariffs, telecom regulator Trai on Monday (08 February) barred them from charging discriminatory prices for web access.

In a far reaching recommendation, Trai provided for a penalty of Rs 50,000 for each day on service providers if they flout the order. This penalty would be subject to a maximum of Rs 50 lakh.

"No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman RS Sharma said unveiling the details of the regulations, effective from Monday, titled 'Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016'.

The new rules come amid a long-running debate on net neutrality wherein Facebook has been facing flak for its 'Free Basics' platform, while operators like Airtel have been at the receiving end for similar plans announced earlier.

The Trai order is seen as a setback to Facebook which had plans to roll out Free Basics, providing access to a limited set of websites for free. This was seen as undermining the equal-access precepts of net neutrality.

"Anything on Internet cannot be differently priced. This is the broad point that we have highlighted in regulation," Sharma said.

Plans which are active in contravention of the new regulations should cease to exist in 6 months, he said, adding that the new regulations have been notified in Gazette and are effective from Monday.

"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," Trai said.

However, service providers have been allowed to reduce tariff for access in case of providing emergency services.

"We have not defined emergency services. But in case of such services, operators have to inform Trai within 7 working days," Sharma said.

Facebook's Free Basics plan, launched in around three dozen developing countries, offers pared-down web services on mobile phones, along with access to Facebook's own social network and messaging services, without charge.

Critics had argued that allowing access to a select few apps and web services for free violates the principle of net neutrality - the principle that all websites and data on the Internet should be treated equal.

( PTI / Reuters)


Tags assigned to this article:
trai internet Free Basics facebook web services