After a long and hard-fought battle between the telcos and a very vocal online community, a decision has finally been made on the issue of net neutrality.
TRAI has ruled against differential pricing for data services in a major support to Net Neutrality. The ruling can be seen as a blow to Facebook’s Free Basics, Airtel Zero and other similar data services which offered access to some websites and content for free.
Highlights of the order:
- No service provider shall offer or allow discriminatory pricing for data services based on content.
- Special reduction of tariff for accessing or providing emergency services during times of public emergency.
- Violations will attract a penalty of Rs 50,000 for each day of contravention, subject to a maximum of Rs 50 Lakhs.
- Exemptions to intranet or closed communication networks from this regulation, but has added a caveat saying if a closed network is used for the purpose of evading these regulations then the prohibition will definitely apply.
TRAI termed Facebook’s manoeuvre to lobby for its Free Basics initiative a “crude” attempt at turning the consultation over differential pricing of data services into an “orchestrated opinion poll”.