Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued another questionnaire asking opinions about Internet Neutrality. Over the last few weeks, promoters of so called Free Internet like Facebook have really raised their sales pitch and are now using unethical means like misleading ads and claiming support from users in different countries by misleading them into clicking links which are then presented as support for their campaign. These 4 questions issued by TRAI in this document Consultation Paper on Differential Pricing for Data Services are pretty straightforward and easy to answer. It’s advisable that people should email TRAI with their views and stop greedy corporates from hijacking internet. The answers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .
Question 1: Should the TSPs be allowed to have differential pricing for data usage for accessing different websites, applications or platforms ?
Answer: No. The reason behind extraordinary growth of internet is that there are no different levels of access. Each website or service is supposed to get equal preference at the network. Allowing TSPs to offer discounts to certain websites will mean that the new entrants will find it impossible to get an audience. It will effectively kill off the innovation and just cater to greed of these already established companies.
Such a ruling will allow these TSPs to get a stranglehold on the market and develop a closed infrastructure which will be used to promote only their own products in front of their subscribers while making it extremely expensive for the users to access any other service. Reason why small startups like Google, Facebook, Flipkart became such big corporations is that there is no discrimination for access to their services by any TSP. They offered a better product or sometimes someting entirely new/different than existing companies and their utility made them successful. Now if these already established companies are given the chance to make their own products cheaper or “free”. it will not allow the next big thing to gain any ground.
Services like Facebook, Google are not selling any product to the normal audience. For these companies, the product is people. So for Facebook, it’s actually beneficial to pay a little money to TSPs and gain new audience for it’s advertisements. So claim of companies like Facebook about any benefit to poor is just corporate pitch at best. A poor farmer may benefit from free or cheap access to services like weather forecast, websites which provide localised information about beneficial practices, online platforms for sale and purchase of products and so on. What good will Facebook do to him ? Even if an information website Wikipedia is made free for someone like him, he will still need to access detailed information from the websites which are referenced in Wiki articles.
Question 2: If differential pricing for data usage is permitted, what measures should be adopted to ensure that the principles of nondiscrimination, transparency, affordable internet access, competition and market entry and innovation are addressed?
Answer: It should not be permitted.
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?
Answer: For mobile data, TSPs can provide free data packs to all subscribers if they are so serious about providing free access to poor. Such datapacks can be in 2G or 3G spectrums and limited to a small but usable size like 200-300 MB. To prevent normal users from using up this bandwidth, they can disable it for them or charge for it if the users buy a datapack. It will allow people without any means to pay for internet to get a basic free internet service and increase the possible market for TSPs who get the chance to increase their potential market size. People who get free data in beginning might also turn in to paying cutomers later.
Question-4: Is there any other issue that should be considered in the present consultation on differential pricing for data services ?
Answer: Differential pricing for data services should not be allowed in interest of continued development and improvement of internet free from corporate greed.