Daily Current Affairs – 9th February, 2016Devendra Vishwakarma
TRAI rules in favour of Net neutrality
- The telecom regulator recently struck down differential pricing for internet services offered by telecom players to mobile users, in a bid to uphold the principles of net neutrality.
- This will be a big blow to Facebook’s Free Basics and other zero-rated platforms such as Airtel Zero for which the social media giant, Facebook had launched an aggressive campaign in December last year.
What is the recent TRAI ruling?
- No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
- No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
- Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
- Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified at the rate of Rs. 50,000 per day, subject to a maximum of Rs. 50 lakh, for any violation of the regulations by the service providers.
No differential rates for data services, rules TRAI:
- Differential pricing means charging customers different prices for access to different websites and services.
- Zero-rating platforms are services developed by telcos in partnership with internet service providers (ISPs)/app makers come give free access to customers for certain applications/websites.
TRAI had issued a consultation paper just about 60 days ago on differential pricing …TRAI deliberated on the issue for quite some time and anything on Internet cannot be differently priced. This is the broad point that TRAI highlighted in the regulation.
- The TRAI said tariff for data services could not vary on the basis of the website/application/ platform/ or type of content being accessed.
- For example, a consumer could not be charged differently based on whether she was browsing social media site A or B, or on whether she was watching streaming videos or shopping on the Internet, it added.
In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson said, “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.”
Criticisms regarding TRAI ruling:
- Differential pricing is an effective marketing tool and would help in bringing online the next one billion people. However with the TRAI ruling, less investments are expected into the internet sector when the government is pushing adoption of Internet.
- It will negatively impact the growth of the industry and the consumers who may need such plans to afford data connections.
- Differential pricing for different levels of services was a well-accepted principle across all industries and the concept inherently recognised the economic principle of paying differently for different levels of service and experience.
Net Neutrality in different countries:
- The term ‘net neutrality’ was coined in the US by law professor Tim Wu while discussing “competing contents and applications.”
- In the latest in the net neutrality tussle, Federal courts have given go ahead to rules that prevent net firms from blocking or slowing down online traffic.
- The courts are not postponing implementation of net neutrality rules, despite opposition from firms such as Verizon and AT&T. The Federal Communications Commission is fighting to uphold net neutrality.
- European Parliament in September 2015 voted against net neutrality for the entire Union. Only Slovenia and the Netherlands have net neutrality laws.
- The country’s National Broadband Network (NBN) is holding discussions on net neutrality. NBN says the issue needs to be debated widely before taking a final decision
- While China claims to have net neutrality, experts say internet service providers are owned and operated by the government, which has an iron grip on the content.
- In the early days of the internet in China, the Communist Party stopped attempts by China’s Democracy Party to establish free internet access.
- Experts say the Chinese government employs sophisticated technology to limit content online.