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TRAI rules in favour of Net Neutrality in India

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Monday issued the ‘Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016’ that bars service providers from offerring or charging discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.

1 No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
2 No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
3 Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
4 Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified
5 TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.
A service provider may reduce tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, the body ruled. TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.

TRAI will also levy a penalty of Rs. 50,000 a day for discriminatory tariffs charged by service providers.

This comes amid an ongoing debate over net neutrality in the country.

Earlier, the regulatory body had issued two consulation papers – one in December 2016 about differential data pricing and the one in early 2015 about over-the-top (OTT) services.

The consultation paper on differential data pricing had raised concern over zero-rating tariff models — a practice wherein service providers offer free data to users for select applications and websites — and the paper had become key to the debate on Net neutrality.

According to Internet activists, this model violates the principle of Net neutrality as it restricts access to free, open Internet. Facebook’s Free Basic initiative has come under severe criticism in India as it is based on a zero-rating model. TRAI has also asked Reliance Communication, Facebook’s partner in India for Free Basics, to put the service on hold till the authority considers all the details and terms and conditions of the service.

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