Telecom Operators Ask TRAI To Kill Net Neutrality; Want Differential Pricing Ban Lifted


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In February this year, TRAI had made a historical decision to protect Net Neutrality in India by banning all forms of differential pricing for data services. With this diktat, plans such as Airtel Zero and Free Basics by Facebook were stopped in India.

However, only three months after this landmark ruling, Telecom companies are back with their evil intentions and schemes, as they have written a letter to TRAI, asking them to lift the ban from differential pricing, and hence, allow them to kill principles of net neutrality in India.

Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has written this letter to Sudhir Gupta, who is Secretary at TRAI. COAI is India’s most powerful lobby of telecom firms, and in the past, they had vehemently supported Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero.

In fact, COAI had launched a propaganda called ‘Sab Ka Internet’ which aimed at gathering mass support for such evil schemes, in the garb of providing Internet for all.

What Triggered This New Request To Kill Net Neutrality?

In April this year, Airtel asked TRAI about their plans to partner with a content creator in order to provide exclusive content over their ‘Intranet’.

Basically, Airtel wants to exploit a legal loophole in the TRAI’s order regarding differential pricing. As per the directives issued by TRAI on Net Neutrality: “Differential tariffs being offered for data transmitted over closed electronic communications networks (CECN), such as intranets are not prohibited by these regulations..”

This has created a state of confusion and chaos, as nobody actually knows what constitutes a closed electronic communications network in terms of telecom circles.

Two Questions Which COAI Asked To TRAI

Using this legal loophole, COAI is attempting to raise a coup, and confuse TRAI on Net Neutrality matter. In order to make the matter more complicated, instead of simplifying it, COAI has asked two interesting questions to TRAI:

a) Can a telecom company share advertisement revenues with a content creator who is providing content to their subscribers, at a reduced rate? (Example, say TOI provides content at reduced price to Airtel users. Can Airtel and TOI share revenues? Note here, that TOI and Airtel both would be breaking Net Neutrality here)

b) Can a content creator provide content at a reduced price (differential pricing) to subscribers of a telecom firm, which are under CECN? (Example, can TOI provide exclusive content to Airtel users, at a reduced rate? Or in other words, can Airtel Zero be implemented, which can legally kill Net Neutrality in India?!)

IAMAI Opposes COAI’s Move To Destroy Net Neutrality

Shubho Ray, who is the President of Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has strongly objected to any such move by COAI, asking TRAI to lift ban on differential pricing.

He said, “If somebody is requesting the regulator to permit discriminatory or differential pricing for data services, then effectively they are asking the regulator to end net neutrality..”

TRAI should come out strongly against COAI’s indirect move to kill Net Neutrality in India, in the disguise of confusion and chaos related with TRAI’s earlier directives.

We would keep you updated more details come in.


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