Trai Gets 24 Lakh Comments on Differential Data Pricing Paper

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Trai Gets 24 Lakh Comments on Differential Data Pricing Paper

Telecom regulator Trai has received close to 24 lakh comments on its paper on differential data pricing – a key element that forms the core of the raging debate on net neutrality.

Thursday was the last day to send in the views. This is the record number of comments the regulator has received so far.We have received about 24 lakh comments on the paper,” a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) official told PTI.

The official added that around 18 lakh out of the whole lot relate to Facebook’s Free Basics.

Facing flak for its controversy-ridden Internet platform Free Basics, the social networking giant has launched an email campaign to garner support to its plea that Trai’s Net neutrality rules should not “end up depriving people of the opportunity to come online.

It has also been running full-page advertisements in multiple dailies as part of its ‘Free Basics’ campaign.However, Trai has not been amused with Facebook’s intense lobbying efforts and has been critical of a vast majority of the replies talking about a template provided by Facebook without commenting on the broader issues of the debate.

As per SavetheInternet forum, the net neutrality principle says Internet service providers should not block or discriminate against any applications or content riding on their network.Trai is consulting the public to firm up its recommendations over services that lead to differential pricing of data or the Internet.

Free Basics allows access to content or application hosted on it for free in partnership with the telecom operator.The platform has been opposed by Net neutrality volunteers as also industry bodies Nasscom andIAMAI, who claim that it locks the user to limited content offered for free on discretion of Facebook.

Although the paper does not mention or use the term net neutrality, it details the idea of zero-rating platforms that have stirred up the big debate across the country on the issue.

78% citizens want the government to provide free conditional internet access covering essential/useful citizen services, information, news, emergency alerts, education, etc.

On a follow on question asking if the central/state government should provide free Internet access covering essential/useful citizen services, 78 percent said an affirmative yes. This basically redefines the concept of net neutrality and has implications on what is provided as content when the Internet is free and provided by the government.

Internet evangelists who have stake in the Internet being open to all meaning that all websites and apps should be given equal access will be disappointed by what the citizens want.

“If the government wants to make electronic books available for free it can make sure that they are at least available on all government hotspots. This would not be possible if free Internet is understood only through what private internet companies are offering. The debate on net neutrality has to take into account that access to internet is important and its misuse is also a possibility,” K Yatish Rajawat, chief strategy officer, LocalCircles.

In the qualitative discussion on the subject of Net Neutrality, citizens suggested that more people should get access to the internet faster, however, private internet players should not be the gateways to the Internet for the population and the government should instead provide free access to essential/useful internet, independently or in partnership with telecom providers.

In addition, the concern that has been repeatedly raised is that providing free open access across the board would lead to misuse of the facility and lead to high usage of services like photos, videos, entertainment (common use cases in social networks) etc. and such usage will not only impact the use of essential services but also have negative social consequences to a population that would be new to the internet.

Majority of the citizens are in favor of essential/useful internet services being furnished free by the Government while other internet access like entertainment, leisure, etc. being made available for purchase directly between a citizen and the telecom provider.

LocalCircles, India’s leading citizen engagement platform takes social media to the next level and makes it about communities, governance and utility. It enables citizens to connect with communities for most aspects of urban daily life like neighborhood, constituency, city, government, causes, interests and needs, seek information/assistance when needed, come together for various initiatives and improve their urban daily life.

credit: ndtv& teleanalysis

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