As Trai gears up to frame the Net Neutrality rules, telecom operators have favoured differential pricing for data services even as nearly 80 per cent replies to the regulator’s consultation process follow the Facebook ‘templates’ for its controversy-ridden Free Basics platform.
While Net Neutrality activists continue to oppose any differential pricing regime, saying it would amount to curbs on freedom of choice to access Internet, Facebook has launched a massive campaign to project its Free Basics platform as a tool to spread web connectivity.
An analysis of a record 24 lakh comments, received by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to its consultation paper on differential pricing for data services, shows that 18.94 lakh replies are in support of Free Basics, of which 13.5 lakh views are through ‘@supportfreebasics.in’ and without the senders’ individual e-mail IDs while further 5.44 lakh comments have come from ‘@facebookmail.com’.
On the other hand, the Net Neutrality campaigners have submitted 4.84 lakh comments through forums like ‘Save the Internet’.
Besides, there are comments from telecom and Internet service providers, industry bodies and individuals.
The telecom operators including Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Communications and their respective associations have supported differential pricing for data services, while Internet service providers have opposed the plan.
“For the growth of data service, price differentiation for data services can be allowed,” operators have submitted.
Reliance Jio Infocomm though has not submitted its comments on the matter.
A debate on net neutrality stirred across the country after Airtel decided to charge separately for Internet-based calls but withdrew it later after people protested. The debate heated up after Airtel launched free Internet platform Airtel Zero and later Facebook also launched its Internet.Org platform, renamed as Free Basics.
Nasscom said issues concerning differential pricing for data services need careful consideration because of their possible impact on net neutrality.
The IT industry body said data plans offered by telecom companies to the consumer has to be neutral between their own and competing Internet platforms and services.