TRAI extends deadline for comments on net neutrality to January 7

GN Bureau | December 30, 2015



Responding to the requests from the stakeholders, the Telecom Operator Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has extended the deadline to submit comments on its consultation papers on differential pricing for data services to January 7, said an official release.

 Released on December 9, the regulator initially sought comments on the paper by December 30 and counter-comments on January 7. Now the counter-comments will be taken on January 14.
 
READ: Facebook's Free Basics is deeply flawed: Joint statement by IIT and IIS faculty members

The consultation paper by the regulator essentially talked about zero-rating that has created ripples across the country. Zero-rating is a plan backed by telecom operators of India which supports free accessibility of limited content for the users on the internet.  
 
Airtel, a leading telecom and internet service provider, launched Airtel Zero in April 2015, which fired the debate on zero-rating in India. On the other hand, Facebook’s relaunched its internet.orgc ampaign in India with much rigour under the banner of Free Basics. Through Free Basics, Facebook intends to provide free access to basic information, for instance health, education, job listings etc. on the free internet to help connect the unconnected population to the internet world. 
 
The content will be selected and provided by Facebook through its medium with the support of Reliance communications network, its sole telecom partner in the country.  
 
For the past four days, the social network giant has been using print media and other platforms vociferously to pitch in for its campaign and gain public support.  It claims to have received more than three million petitions from Indians in support of its Free Basics.
 
Meanwhile, the opposition for zero-rating grew manifolds with the participation of International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, and Jawaharlal Nehru technological University, along with internet civil society groups.
 
The collective view from the opposing groups says that with concepts like Free Basics and Airtel Zero will create monopoly on the internet, and restrict financially small and budding content providers from reaching to the users, as content that will not be a part of the telecom operator’s free services will be charged extra, hence, creating an environment of differential pricing.

Some 40 members from IIT Delhi and IIT Khargapur and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, joined net neutrality debate by signing petition against Facebook's Free Basics on Wednesday. The petition that will be forwarded to TRAI says, “Facebook’s ‘free basics’ (sic) proposal is such a lethal combination, having several deep flaws, beneath the veil6 of altruism wrapped around it in TV and other media advertisements."

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