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TRAI gives clarification on consultation paper

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trai-guidelinesThe Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has said that the consultation paper it had issued recently is not on Net Neutrality, rather it seeks views of stakeholders on the differential pricing for data services that are being offered by operators.

However, some are seeing differential pricing as part of the overall debate on Net Neutrality, a principle which is against any priority being accorded to an entity in the Internet traffic flow on account of payments made to service providers like telecom companies.

Amidst a debate over zero-rating plans and telecom firms offering discounted tarrifs for accessing websites, TRAI, a few days ago, came out with a consultation paper, seeking views if such differential pricing should be allowed.

At an event, RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI, said, “We are saying that it is a specific issue which we have raised, that may be a part of net neutrality… This is a specific problem which has come to the notice of TRAI and we are consulting the stakeholders as to what their views are.”

Sharma further said, “There are examples which have happened in the recent past where content providers and telecom service providers (TSPs) have tied-up, and it is being proposed that if their content goes via the telecom companies’ pipes or networks, then there will be free or near free data charges.’

“Effectively, what has happened is that telecom companies, in a way, are creating a differential pricing regime for different websites. So, that is the question which we have asked in the consultation paper whether it is appropriate or not,” Sharma added.

Initially, TRAI had issued a paper on over-the-top (OTT) players and whether they should be regulated for providing competing services like telecom operators.

Sharma also said, “TRAI had not issued any paper on net neutrality as such. The Authority had issued an OTT paper and basically the issue in that paper was different.”

In the consultation paper, TRAI is seeking comments on whether the steps should be taken to ensure that the principles of non-discrimination, transparency, affordable Internet access, competition, market entry and innovation are adhered to, if differential pricing is allowed.

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