Differential pricing is anti-competitive, anti-innovation: Mozilla to TRAI

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Pratap Vikram Singh | December 30, 2015 | New Delhi



 Mozilla Corporation has come out strongly against the differential pricing, which gives rise to ‘anti-competition and anti-innovation effects’. In its response to TRAI on consultation paper on differential pricing for data services, Mozilla said that the core principles of net neutrality have created a level playing field that has been critical to the internet’s success to date. 

 “The internet’s capacity to be an engine for economic and social development, education, opportunity, and innovation will be diminished if we sacrifice these principles and install new gatekeepers in the name of connecting new users,” the corporation said. 

READ: TRAI extends deadline for comments on net neutrality to January 7

In an indirect reference to Free Basics, a zero rating platform of Facebook aimed at giving free access to a set of online services including the social media site, the US based corporation said, “While paid prioritisation is frequently invoked as a violation of this principle, subsidisation that makes some content available for free, and other content only available at a cost that is prohibitively expensive to some, raises similar concerns.”

As with blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization, Mozilla said, differential pricing can enable gatekeepers who exercise market power to disrupt the Internet’s level playing field. “Even with platforms that claim to be open to any site or service that meets certain technical specifications, we are concerned with how open they would be to including a new, start-up competitor to their established services and those of their partners,” the corporation said. 

It cautioned the Indian telecom regulator towards the claims made by “some” (referring to Facebook) that after using zero-rated-limited-internet for a short while, users move to using full internet. “In assessing claims that differential pricing schemes are successful in moving users who were unconnected to paid plans, we encourage TRAI to look carefully at the data. For example, it is worth investigating the connectivity available to these users before they acquired a SIM with a differential pricing scheme.” Put another way, users of differential pricing schemes are not necessarily first time internet users, the corporation said in its response.

“As the TRAI exercises its oversight and regulation of such product offerings, we believe you will be well served by the principles you have previously enumerated: Non-discriminatory, transparency, not anti-competitive, non-predatory, non-ambiguous, and not misleading,” Mozilla said. 

It is important to note here that Mozilla has been advocating equal rating – free access to all internet within a data cap. The corporation has sought to create such an alternative in Bangladesh and countries in Africa within the Firefox OS ecosystem. It has tied up with telecom operator Grameenphone in Bangladesh to provide 20 Mb data per day for free to users, in exchange for viewing an advertisement. The model could be easily replicated in India, said Pahwa of MediaNama. For African countries, the foundation has partnered with Orange. Both allow Africans to purchase $40 Firefox OS smartphones that come packaged with free three to six months of voice calling, text, and up to 500 Mb of monthly data.

Mozilla Corporation produces the Firefox web browser and Firefox OS, together adopted by half a billion individual Internet users around the world. Mozilla is also a foundation that educates and empowers Internet users to be the Web’s makers, not just its consumers.
 

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