February 8, 2016

Indian telecom regulator favors net neutrality. Jolt to Facebook's Free Basics

Indians wanting net neutrality have finally won and they have won big!

The internet watchdog of India (TRAI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has ruled that services such as Facebook's Free Basics are off. 

In its regulations issued today, TRAI has firmly said that No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content... No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has 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... 

It also imposes a fine of Rs 50K to Rs 5 million for violation of the regulations.

That puts an end to a fierce debate on net neutrality in India. In his recent visit to India, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had very fervently called for free data plans for serving billions of poor people. Free Basics (earlier called internet.org) is already operational in over 30 nations and was offered shortly in India too. Zuckerberg seemed to have had the ears of PM Modi and it was being felt that he would influence the top policy makers and regulators into believing that discriminatory tariff services such as Free Basics are necessary to reach internet to remote corners of India. After his India visit, Facebook launched a massive media campaign in favor of Free Basics.

Telecom companies and Facebook have expressed disappointment over the TRAI decision.

US and European regulators have earlier given decisions in favor of net neutrality or open internet.

You may like to visit the following articles for unbiased reporting on both sides of the debate, and background to net neutrality: 
1.The debate, and what net neutrality means for bloggers and other content creators, common internet users.
2. Zuckerberg's arguments in favor of internet.org