Recently re-ignited debate of net neutrality seem to be coming at an end. As a campaign for Free Basics by Facebook has been backfired on Thursday with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) asking respondents to its ‘Net Neutrality’ consultation paper. It requests to comment on some specific issues rather than following a particular template provided by the social media giant.
Media reports suggest that TRAI has received 18.27 lakh responses for the same. In addition, chairman RS Sharma said that analyses showed that a large number of them supported Facebook’s Free Basics plans. While, around 8.9 Lakhs of them through phone and 5.44 lakh through Facebook mail, supporting the platform.
Meanwhile, Sharma proclaimed that the consultation paper was not multiple choice question, where people have to select an option for few question nor it was an opinion poll for differential pricing.
“… so about 14.34 lakh are such comments. Now the problem for this is that we had asked for a response to the specific question of differential pricing… instead, we have got responses on supporting Free Basics. Now how supporting Free Basics help in answering the questions… it has become difficult for us to arrive at,” Sharma said.
He further said one approach that could have been taken is to just ignore these responses but as people have taken time out to respond, therefore ignoring the comments is not fair.
“… that was one of the reasons why we extended the deadline because we thought just ignoring this will not be appropriate because this is the record number of responses which we have got,” he said.
The regulator has reported that it has received 3.81 lakh comments from people, in support of net neutrality.
Savetheinternet.in team said: “We welcome Trai’s decision to give the supporters of Free Basics an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the consultation process by answering the questions posed by Trai. Those who support services like Airtel Zero and Free Basics can use the tool at www.savetheinternet.in, write their own answers and send them to Trai.”
After the launch of a massive campaign by Facebook for its Free Basics platform, TRAI has extended the last date for receiving comments on its paper on differential data pricing to January 7 and January 14 for counter comments.
Explaining the need of Free Basics, the sector regulator said, “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.” 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.