New Delhi: Social media major Facebook has alleged that someone at telecom regulator Trai's office blocked email from its websites which people used for sharing their comments on differential pricing issue -- a key issue of net neutrality.
Facebook has launched a public campaign to defend its free Internet platform Free Basics in response to consultation paper floated by The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on regulatory framework for differential pricing for data services.
The social media apprehends that the regulator may ban its Free Basics platform, which allows access to some websites and applications, and hence launched a massive campaign to gather support in its favour.
According to sources, Facebook in a letter to the regulator, has said that despite clear and timely efforts by millions of Indians to send their comments, "someone with access to designated Trai email account appears to have blocked receipt of all emails from Facebook to that Trai account."
It said that during its query its found that "on December 17 at 5.51.53 GMT, an individual with access to the Trai email account designated to accept comments took action that blocked Facebook from delivering any additional email to that address."
Facebook said that the action by person prevented Facebook system from sending further responsive email to Trai. The last date for public comments on Trai paper was earlier December 30 which was later extended to January 7.
As per Trai data it has received around 24 lakh comments till January 7. Releasing number of responses received through facebookmail.com and supportfreebasics.in, Trai has said that it received?only 1.89 million while Facebook's claimed the number to be more than 11 million supporting its plan to make parts of the Internet available for free under 'Free Basics'.
This is first ever consultation paper on which Trai has received maximum comments from people. An analysis of a record 24 lakh comments, as disclosed by TRAI to its consultation paper on differential pricing for data services, shows that 18.94 lakh replies are in support of Free Basics, of which 13.5 lakh views are through supportfreebasics.in and without the senders individual e-mail IDs while further 5.44 lakh comments have come from facebookmail.com.
On the other hand, the Net Neutrality campaigners have submitted 4.84 lakh comments through forums like Save the Internet. Besides, there are comments from telecom and Internet service providers, industry bodies and individuals.
The telecom operators, including Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Communications and their respective associations, have supported differential pricing for data services, while Internet service providers have opposed the plan.
"For the growth of data service, price differentiation for data services can be allowed," operators have submitted. Reliance Jio Infocomm though has not submitted its comments on the matter. A debate on net neutrality stirred across the country after Airtel decided to charge separately for Internet-based calls but withdrew it later after people protested.
The debate heated up after Airtel launched free Internet platform Airtel Zero and later Facebook also launched its Internet.Org platform, renamed as Free Basics. Nasscom said issues concerning differential pricing for data services need careful consideration because of their possible impact on net neutrality.
The IT industry body said data plans offered by telecom companies to the consumer have to be neutral between their own and competing Internet platforms and services.