Can free data be offered without violating net neutrality? TRAI asks
The debate around net neutrality is back.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has floated a consultation paper simply asking whether telecom companies can offer free data without violating the principles of net neutrality. It said, “The model should facilitate the un-connected and under-connected consumer to become better connected and should not allow any TSP or large company playing a gatekeeper or biased role.”
It further said, “The model should use the principles of open, transparent and equal access to consumer services by all consumers and all businesses.”
TRAI has proposed a “TSP agnostic platform” that could provide rewards to customers when they download a certain application or have an activity on a particular website. “In this reward based model apps may provide rewards in the form of a recharge for data usage or for voice usage to the users.”
TRAI said that a toll free API could be another model. It said, “In this model, the TSP does not act as a gatekeeper and plays a passive role.”
The platform owner has a business interest to allow any and every content provider making the model neutral. This model will work for mobile subscribers who have zero-balance as the subscribers are not being charged so they don’t need balance versus a reward model that requires an action before the reward thereby excluding the mobile users who have low or zero balance, TRAI said.
The most interesting is the third model—direct money transfer.
TRAI said, “This model, deployed through a TSP agnostic platform, offers similar benefits as the first two models. However, just like in Toll Free Model, the Platform owner not only measure the real time data consumption but also the tariff that is being applied to each individual user and reimburse/recharge actual amount incurred by the user in the form of a recharge for data usage or for voice usage to the user.”
The key question
Is there a need to have TSP agnostic platform to provide free data or suitable reimbursement to users, without violating the principles of Differential Pricing for Data laid down in TRAI Regulation? Please suggest the most suitable model to achieve the objective.
Whether such platforms need to be regulated by the TRAI or market be allowed to develop these platforms?
Whether free data or suitable reimbursement to users should be limited to mobile data users only or could it be extended through technical means to subscribers of fixed line broadband or leased line?
Do you think you have answers to these questions?
Write to TRAI by June 16, 2016 on email@example.com.
The comments and counter-comments will be posted on TRAI’s website after June 30, 2016.