TRAI receives 18.72 lakh responses on net neutrality

14 lakh respondents to get another chance to respond “question by question” to the regulator’s consultation paper on differential pricing for data services

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Pratap Vikram Singh | December 31, 2015 | New Delhi



The telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) has so far received 18.72 lakh responses to its consultation paper on differential pricing for data services. However, a majority of these responses –around 14 lakh – did not provide any answer to the questions posed by the regulator, and supported Free Basics. 

 
Around 8.9 lakh responses were sent through cell phones. Since most of the responses did not answer the questions posed by the TRAI, these responses are of no use to the regulator. According to TRAI, over 3.8 lakh people have sent email in support of netneutrality.
 
RS Sharma, chairman, TRAI, said that the regulatory authority will not reject the 14 lakh responses favouring free basics and will give a “fair chance” to the respondents to rectify the error and send their answers “question by question”. The regulator had sought public feedback on four questions.
 
It is important to note that Facebook has launched a multi-media campaign to build the case in favour of its Free Basic – its revised version of the earlier internet.org initiative that was shelved amidst protest by the users. Beside its mega TV and full page newspaper advertisements, Facebook is also prompting its users through notifications asking them to send a message to TRAI in support of digital equality.
 
Its online campaign enables Facebook users in India to send a pre-written email to the TRAI with the subject “I Support Free Basics in India.”
 
Experts argue that the term ‘free’ in ‘free basics’ is a marketing gimmick that is camouflaged behind the keywords of like ‘free’ and ‘equality’ to wrongly motivate users to sign the Facebook campaign.

READ: Facebook's Free Basics is deeply flawed: Joint statement by IIT and IIS faculty members 
 
“These voices should be heard,” said Sharma adding that in cases where the regulator has email IDs of the respondents, TRAI will send an email to those respondents and ask them to re-submit their responses along with justifications again. Though in cases where the regulator just has mobile numbers it still has to figure out a way to reach those respondents.
 
The final decision in this issue will be taken by TRAI by the end of January, till then it has asked Reliance – the sole telecom partner of Facebook in India – to put Free Basics on hold.
 
Sharma further said that in the coming days the regulator will decide upon the broader policy steps on net neutrality.

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