For net neutrality and against Zero rating plans
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.
= = =
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.
= = = =
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.
= = = =