Telecom watchdog gets record response on differential pricing

| Thursday, December 31, 2015 - 18:17
First Published |
Telecom tower

A large number of citizens supported Facebook's Free Basics plans

New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has received 18.27 lakh responses on differential pricing consultation paper, its chairman RS Sharma said on Thursday, adding that analyses showed that a large number of them supported Facebook's Free Basics plans. He said Around 8.9 lakh respondents were for Free Basics plans.

Industrialist Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCOM) on December 23 said following the Indian telecom regulator's directive, the commercial launch of Facebook's Free Basics has been put on hold till it gets clearance. RCOM is the only telecom service provider offering Free Basics in India.

The regulator said Facebook's Free Basics service should remain on hold till the ruling on differential pricing comes up. Differential pricing on data services is an important aspect of net neutrality. Sharma said the decision on differential pricing will come up by January end.

He also mentioned that the Indian telecom watchdog has decided to extend the deadline on comments by another week till January 7.

According to sources, the comments should reach the regulator before January 7 and the regulator will come out with counter-comments by January 14. The deadline for receiving comments ended on Wednesday.

The TRAI on December 9 said differential pricing of data services by various operators might potentially go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff and sought comments or opinions from stakeholders.

It said some service providers were offering differential data tariff, either free or discounted, on certain contents of particular websites, applications or platforms.

"The objective of offering such schemes is claimed to be the desire of various service/content/platform providers to enable consumers, especially the poor, to access certain content on the internet free of charge," the sector regulator said.

It said potentially, both positive and negative effects arise from an economic and regulatory perspective where reduced rates are tied to specific content.

"On the one hand, it appears to make overall internet access more affordable by reducing costs of certain types of content. On the other hand, several negative effects might ensue. Differential tariffs result in classification of subscribers based on the content they want to access. This may potentially go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff," it added.

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