The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Wednesday issued a consultation paper on “differential pricing for data services” inviting comments by December 30. The issue is closely linked with net neutrality, which was the focus of the regulatory body’s consultation paper in March this year, which sought comments on a “Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services.”
Trai says the two papers are independent of each other. Activists have found the new paper to be a vast improvement on the former. However, at least one member of the Save The Internet Coalition felt the questions were repeated.
The March paper had come in for heated debate, with activist groups mounting a campaign that ended in over one million emails being sent to Trai batting in favour of net neutrality.
The December consultation paper takes a close look at what has been called “zero-rating” in the net neutrality debate. This refers to the practice of ISPs offering certain internet services or access to certain websites for free, making a “walled garden” of a section of the internet available to the user for free. Net neutrality advocates are opposed to this, and had strongly criticized Facebook’s earlier Internet.org programme (now Free Basics, after key changes) that sought to do the same.
Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the Bengaluru-based research organization Center for Internet and Society praised the paper for not using the term “zero-rating.” “Trai has rightly eschewed the term “zero-rating,” which is jargon without any precise definition, and I’m glad it has chosen to look at it as an issue of ‘differential pricing,’” he says.