The debate on the net neutrality will be over as India’s telecom regulator TRAI has given a jolt to Facebook’s Free Basics campaign. TRAI has given the verdict in favor of net neutrality. “Given that a majority of the population are yet to be connected to the Internet, allowing service providers to define the nature of access would be equivalent to letting TSPs (telecom service providers) shape the users’ Internet experience,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in its release.
As a consequence of this verdict no service provider can launch a discriminatory tariff on the internet and if any service provider tries to do so it will be fined $735 per day.
“While formulating the regulations, the authority has largely been guided by the principles of net neutrality seeking to ensure that customers get unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the Internet,” TRAI said in its statement.
The debate on the net neutrality gained momentum and many experts have lobbied collectively against Facebook’s intensions.
Facebook had also launched an advertising campaign which was heavily criticized. TRAI termed this campaign ‘crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll’. It ordered Reliance Communication to stop the Free Basics service.
“Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
What does it mean for India?
The TRAI verdict has made it sure that Indian internet domain will remain neutral. No service provider will be able to prioritize one pocket with other or no differential pricing will be there. For example, a service provider can provide a free music service on its platform but it can’t give it priority over other such services.
Critics of the Facebook’s Free Basics plan have shared their pleasure over the verdict. They were totally against creating two types of platforms free and paid. It was against the principle of net neutrality.
The basic rationale behind the regulation is that the network that carries the data should be agnostic to data packets, R.S. Sharma, chairman of TRAI, told reporters.
“Anything on the Internet cannot be priced discriminately based on source, destination, content and applications,” he said.
This verdict has also hurt the lobbying done by all telecom operators who were lobbying expensively to allow differential pricing structure. ere are the TRAI rulings and what spell for users and service providers across the country:
“No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.”
First, your internet service provider will not be allowed to charge you differently based on the services you use in the connection. So you will be charged at the same rate irrespective of what services you use. The verdict has also made it possible to find loopholes in the ruling. Companies will not be able to enter into an agreement with any particular web app that belies the principles of net neutrality.
The victory came after the concerted effort of intellectuals, parliamentarians, NGOs and unequivocal support of the civil society. Hectic lobbying was done by Facebook in media along with big telecom operators, but they lost badly. It also gave a signal that Indian civil society is strong and it’s capable of acting as an effective watchdog.