TRAI says no to Facebook's Free Basics, Airtel Zero; rules in favour of net neutrality

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday ruled in favour of net neutrality and struck down differential pricing barring companies from charging or offering data traffic on discriminatory basis.

Updated: Feb 09, 2016, 00:40 AM IST
TRAI says no to Facebook's Free Basics, Airtel Zero; rules in favour of net neutrality

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Ruling in favour of net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Monday struck down differential pricing barring companies from charging or offering data traffic on discriminatory basis.

Issuing the 'Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016' that bars service providers from offerring or charging discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content, TRAI said it would levy a penalty of Rs 50,000 per day on companies violating the rule.

Announcing the final guidelines on differential pricing, TRAI said that "No service provider shall enter into any arrangement or contract that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services."

 

This statement/rule, which comes amid the debate of net neutrality in the country, will come into immediate and will be renewed every two years.

"Prohibition of discriminatory tariff is necessary to ensure that service providers continue to fulfill obligations in keeping internet open and non-discriminatory," TRAI said.

Sounding a strong warning, TRAI said 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.

Any company violating the law will be fine a penalty of Rs 50,000 per day, TRAI said.

"By way of financial disincentive, an amount of rupees fifty thousand for each day of contravention, subject to a maximum of rupees fifty lakh," TRAI said in the press statement.

This means that facilities such as Airtel Zero and Facebook's Free Basics will not be allowed in the country.

 

The telecom apex body however ruled that a service provider may reduce tariff for accessing or providing emergency services.

Meanwhile, social networking site Facebook expressed disappointment at the TRAI move, saying its "goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform".

"While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings," Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

 

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who had championed the cause of Net neutrality, hailed the move. "Welcome Trai's ruling in support of #NetNeutrality. Big win for Internet users in India. Congratulations to all those who campaigned tirelessly and fought hard to ensure that our Internet remains free and equal for all," his office tweeted.