You can submit comments on differential pricing till Jan 7

Telecom regular TRAI
TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has extended the date for submitting comments for the consultation paper on differential pricing to January 7 from the earlier deadline of December 30.

The regulator will come out with counter-comments by January 14.

The TRAI regulation on differential pricing on data services is an important aspect of net neutrality.

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

Some telecom service providers are 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.

Meanwhile, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on Wednesday said the differential pricing violates principles of net neutrality.

Members of IAMAI include Google, Facebook and Twitter.

“In addition to being against net neutrality, the differential pricing models suggested by TRAI prima facie also violate the regulator’s own stated principles of intervening in pricing,” IAMAI president Subho Ray said.

The industry body, in its submission, agreed that there was an urgent need to connect the billion unconnected people and narrow the digital and developmental divide.

This came right after the ongoing debate that started after Facebook’s plan to launch Free Basics initiative in India.

Indian telecom network operator Reliance Communications on December 23 said that following the Indian telecom regulator’s directive, the commercial launch of Facebook’s Free Basics has been put on hold till it gets clearance.

“As directed by TRAI, the commercial launch of Free Basics has been kept in abeyance, till they consider all details and convey a specific approval,” a Reliance Communications spokesperson said.

Reliance Communications is the only telecom service provider offering Free Basics in India.