In its response to Trai, the social media giant says it does support strong net neutrality rules
GN Staff | January 12, 2016
While affirming to the core principle of net neutrality, social media giant Facebook has moved with telecom operators over the issue of differential pricing of data services.
It has favoured allowing differential pricing of data services, a key issue under net neutrality principles, especially zero rating platforms like its own controversy-ridden Free Basics.
“The short answer is yes. Differential pricing, as the term is used in the consultation paper, should generally continue to be allowed,” Facebook said in its comments submitted to telecom regulator TRAI.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is holding consultation before framing up of recommendations for net neutrality rules. The telecom operators too have favoured differential pricing for data services.
Facebook’s Free Basics, a zero rating platform, allows access to content or application hosted on it for free in partnership with telecom operator.
Facebook said that zero rating plans can lead to increase in Internet adoption at no cost to the government, the content provider or the consumers. The firm said that it supports core principle of net neutrality.
“Facebook supports strong net neutrality rules, including prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritisation,” it said.
Facebook has said zero rating is permitted in the vast majority of jurisdictions around the world and these plans should be evaluated case by case, based on a number of criteria.
“Those jurisdictions that have engaged in extensive deliberation over zero rating, including the EU and the US, have concluded that adoption of net neutrality rules does not require banning zero rating,” it added.
The social media major said that providing free Internet services without content restrictions is likely to have limited benefits because telecom operators will need to impose limit in terms of data consumed or download speed or time till when it will be free.
However, the Indian IT Industry through Nasscom, Internet firms though IAMAI and many Internet forums have opposed differential pricing of data or zero rating platforms. IAMAI members include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.
As per people opposing differential pricing regime, zero rating platforms locks the freedom of user in accessing content over Internet and limits their access to application or content that are offered for free on discretion of the company owning it.
At the end of first round of comments, Trai has received about 24 lakh comments of which close to 80 per cent are through campaign launched by Facebook to defend its free Internet platform Free Basics.
The Nasscom response reiterated the position that any tariff plan should not restrict right for the consumer to choose. It also added that data services should allow innovation without permission and should have no differential data charges for different apps.
“Differential pricing should not become a tool that facilitates market dominance or enables anti-competitive behavior by either TSP or platform provider. It should not offer direct or indirect commercial benefit including leveraging the value of customer data generated in the process. Further it should not offer lower prices for own or partner content/ service. Instead of differential pricing for select data services for wide access, transparent business models should be adopted without segmenting the internet or skewing competition,” said Sanjiv Bikhchandani, Chairman, NASSCOM Internet Council.
“We reiterate our firm commitment to Net Neutrality that guarantees users rights to unfettered choice of content and to the creation of a conducive environment for continuous innovation. We strongly oppose any model where TSPs or their partners have a say or discretion in choosing content that is made available at favourable rates, speed etc. We recognize that in India there is an obvious need for collective, concerted and focused efforts to enable relevant content, services or access and to overcome the digital divide,” said R Chandrashekhar, president, NASSCOM.
India’s demographic presently has very low broadband and internet penetration. Also India is characterised by low levels of digital literacy and limited availability of local language support with less than 10 percent of English speaking population, there is need for continuous innovation in both technology solutions and business models.
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