Archive for December 2015
Here’s the letter I sent to the TRAI in response to their call for comments to the Consultation Paper on Differential Pricing for Data Services
The deadline to send in comments is 30th Dec. 2015. Please send in yours in case you haven’t done so already.
Check out http://savetheinternet.in for more on this topic.
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Sri. RS Sharma
CC: Vinod Kotwal, Advisor (F and EA), TRAI
At the outset, I request you to please not publish my email address on the TRAI website or other publications.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on the matter of Differential Pricing for Data Services, and the Consultation Paper issued on the matter. This issue is key to increase access, to securing net neutrality and to maintain a level playing field in India.
I am thankful that the TRAI has both highlighted the need for preventing discriminatory practices in this paper, and looked into the issue of making the Internet available to all. Both Internet access and Net Neutrality are important, and we shouldn’t be choosing between the two. Instead we should strive for increasing connectivity which complies with Net Neutrality, ensuring meaningful Internet access for all Indians.
I would like to point out that some of the questions on price discrimination, raised in this consultation, had already been raised in the consultation on regulation of Over the top services, to which over 12 lakh Indians had sent responses. Those answers should be considered by the TRAI in this consultation paper on Differential Pricing for Data services. The TRAI should bring in rules to prevent Net Neutrality violations such as differential pricing – especially the practice of “Zero Rating”.
I hope the TRAI considers my answers.
Note: This e-mail message and its attachments may contain confidential / privileged information intended for a specific recipient and purpose. If you are not the intended recipient, please do not disclose, forward, copy, distribute or otherwise publish this e-mail message or use it, its contents or any part thereof, in any manner. Any such disclosure, publication or use will invite legal liability and consequences.
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Question 1: Should the TSPs be allowed to have differential pricing for data usage for accessing different websites, applications or platforms?
NO. Differential pricing for accessing different websites, applications or platforms is discriminatory, anti-competition, non transparent, predatory and misleading. It should not be allowed.
Question 2: If differential pricing for data usage is permitted, what measures should be adopted to ensure that the principles of non-discrimination, transparency, affordable internet access, competition and market entry and innovation are addressed?
No measures can be adopted to ensure that non-discrimination, transparency, affordable internet access, competition and market entry and innovation are addressed in the current models on offer right now. Both Free Basics and Airtel Zero are discriminatory, opaque, anti – competition programs. They are applying predatory practices and are misleading consumers, putting an inordinate burden on the consumer without providing sufficient information to make an informed decision.
In response to Point # 21. in the consultation paper, I would like to note that it is not sufficient for such differential pricing programs to just convey it directly to consumer.
The offered service/app will be true to its word and in conformity with the principles of natural justice only if it is designed such that it ensures that all other services/apps on the device that would use data are blocked and only the free service/app is running so that the subscriber is not burdened with a hefty charge for what s/he thought would be a free session of browsing a few websites from within a ‘free’ app/service.
Question 3. Are there alternative methods/technologies/business models, other than differentiated tariff plans, available to achieve the objective of providing free internet access to the consumers? If yes, please suggest/describe these methods/technologies/business models. Also, describe the potential benefits and disadvantages associated with such methods/technologies/business models?
The only acceptable differential pricing plans would be those which offer a fixed duration / data volume (of say 1 hr or 20 Mb) free access per day. And the charge for any usage beyond the free limit should be at a rate not higher that what a full paying subscriber pays.
Question-4: Is there any other issue that should be considered in the present consultation on differential pricing for data services?
Allowing for differential pricing would hand absolute power to the TSPs to shape what the people of the country would perceive the internet to be. It is important that through its actions, TRAI must ensure that there are no official or unofficial censors set up who will obstruct or allow access to content based on their personal/financial or any other form of relationship with the content creator or aggregator.
Some TSPs and Facebook have incorrectly framed a debate around access at the cost of network neutrality to further their commercial interests. Access does not have to come at the price of network neutrality.
I count on TRAI to
- consider the submissions made to Question Nos. 14 and 15 in the Consultation on OTT Services (April, 2015) for the Consultation on Pricing Discrimination
- announce an actionable time table for the conclusion of both consultation processes
- discharge its bounden duty to maintain net neutrality and increase access to the millions of people in this country.
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So yesterday’s Deccan Herald B’luru edition had an Ad – Two full pages. See the attached image. I am christening it the Facebook for Free Basics or the #FB4FB campaign.
So FB sees enough coming about from FB that they are not just using their own platform to sell FB. Well, if the ISPs and TSPs are going to make money, why leave out famous English dailies in leading newspaper markets of the country! Spread the wealth? Trickle down economics? Psst: If you don’t write anything bad about FB in your editorial pages or news reports, there will be more goodies for you !!
Anyway, let me do a point by point re-interpretation of the 10 claims in the Ad:
#FB4FB : Free Basics is open to any carrier. Any mobile operator can join us in connecting India.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Free Basics is open to any carrier. Any mobile operator can join us in connecting India … to the websites that have conform to _our_ standards i.e. _our_ preferences and _our_ limitations.
#FB4FB : We do not charge anything for Free Basics. Period.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We do not charge anything for Free Basics. Period. … But we will only let you see the content that our ‘friends’ offer.
#FB4FB : We do not pay for the data consumed in Free Basics. Operators participate because the program has proven to bring more people online. Free Basics has brought new people on to mobile networks on average over 50% faster since launching the service.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We do not pay for the data consumed in Free Basics. Operators participate because the program has had the cash registers ringing ! see -6- below.
#FB4FB : Any developer or publisher can have their content on Free Basics. There are technical specs openly published here: some url. and we have never rejected an app or publisher who has met these technical specs
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Any one who meets our technical specs (and our service agreement) is in. Otherwise you are out.
#FB4FB : Nearly 800 developers have signed their support for Free Basics.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We have managed to find 800 developers out of the few lakh content generators that are out there on the internet. And oh ! these ‘nearly 800’ have only signed their support, we are not sure if their content is on FB yet.
#FB4FB : It is not a walled garden: In India, 40% of people who have come online through FB are paying for data and accessing the full internet within the first 30 days. In the same time period, 8 times more people are paying than staying on just the free services.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : It is a great deal for the telecom service prodviders ! We have a saying in FB, data wins arguments. Look at the numbers. Look how much more money you can make, if you are a TSP/ISP.
#FB4FB : Free Basics is growing and popular in 36 other countries, which have welcomed the program with open arms and seen the enormous benefits it has brought.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Gimme a break ok, there are 36 other countries who have accepted what we are offering without questioning us. Why do you ask so many questions? Let us just save the poor souls by getting them to access the FB world !!
#FB4FB : In a recent representative poll, 86% of Indians supported Free Basics by Facebook, and the idea that everyone deserves access to free basic internet services
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Internet.org was too distinct, it stood out by itself. So we had a crack team work on it and we changed the name to FB. After all when we are trying to sell a platform, it has to (a) appear ubiquitous (Free Basics internet service is nothing but free basic internet service) and (b) have the same acronym as our primary product ! 🙂
#FB4FB : In the past several days 3.2 million people have petitioned the TRAI in support of Free Basics.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We set up a ‘send a petition’ page on FB that gave people a single big blue button to click reading ‘send email’. No cancel, no small or big ‘x’ to close the pop up screen anywhere. Simplicity, no choices. he! he! he! he! gotcha !!
#FB4FB : There are no ads in the version of Facebook on Free Basics. Facebook produces no revenue. We are doing this to connect India and the benefits to do so are clear.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : FB does not make money on FB. But our partners do. see -6- above. And FB is saving the world, it is connecting India to the FB world! what more can you ask of us!!