TRAI rules against Differential Pricing
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has barred telecom service providers (TSPs) from offering or charging discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content accessed by a consumer.
In this regard, TRAI has issued Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016.
Key provisions of Regulations
- These Regulations aims at ensuring that consumers get non-discriminatory and an unhindered access to the internet.
- They also intend to make data tariffs for access to the internet non-discriminatory on the basis of the content.
- Prohibits TSPs from entering into any arrangement, contract or agreement with any person that may cause discriminatory tariffs based on content-led data services.
- Reduction of tariffs for or providing or accessing emergency services at times of public emergency has been permitted.
- If any TSP flouts this order, it shall be penalised or fined 50 thousand rupees for each day. This fine may be subject to a maximum of 50 lakh rupees.
- TRAI will keep a close watch on the implementation of the regulation by the telecom service providers and may review it after 2 years or even before that if necessary.
- These new regulations have been framed out based on the responses received by TRAI on Consultation Paper on ‘Differential Pricing for Data Services’.
- The Consultation Paper was issued in December 2015 that had primarily sought the views of the stakeholders on whether the TSPs should be allowed to charge differential tariffs based on the websites/ platforms/ applications accessed by customers on the internet.
The move is being seen as a boost to net neutrality and ends the long-running debate on it in India. Henceforth no TSPs can discriminate consumers on differential pricing of data Services basis of website, platform, application and source. It will ensure that consumers get non-discriminatory and unhindered access to the internet.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality (or Internet neutrality) is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat everything that flows across the Internet equally. All ISPs must open all (legal) websites/ platforms/ applications whether they like it or not and cannot charge extra money (differential pricing) for speeding up connection to these websites.