CHENNAI: Amid an intense debate over net neutrality, trade body Nasscom on Monday reiterated its stand that service providers shouldn’t be gatekeepers and not use tariff plans to decide what users should access. Submitting its responses to Trai’s consultation paper on Regulation of over-the-top services, Nasscom strongly batted for strengthening network neutrality. Excerpts:
Trai: Should the TSPs be allowed to have differential pricing for data usage?
Nasscom: We oppose any model where TSPs have a say or discretion to choose content that’s made available at favourable rates, speed etc. TSPs should not be allowed to price different kinds of services differently, for example higher prices for video streaming, accessing e-commerce website etc., thereby segmenting the Internet. Any differential pricing for a priority set of services that are deemed to be in public interest, eg. Emergency services, TSPs own maintenance/billing services, wi-fi hotspots, etc. should be offered only on the basis of explicit directives/approvals of the regulation.
Trai: Are there alternatives to provide free internet access to consumers?
Nasscom: Instead of prioritising differential pricing for select data services for wide access, legitimate and transparent business models should be adopted without segmenting the internet or skewing competition. Some suggested models include free data provision without stipulations. Government can offer free data. An example is the proposed initiative of the Delhi Government that’s offering free internet access subject to cap on data used/day or month. Corporates can channelise efforts towards digital literacy and access. While firms are investing in digital literacy programmes, they may be encouraged to consider developing programmes to invest and cover opex cost to offer free/discounted data to the uninitiated, without any stipulations on usage
Trai: Is there any other issue that should be considered on differential pricing for data services?
Nasscom: Any tariff plan of the telecom service provider should ensure innovation without permissions, data charges that are application-agnostic and customer has an unfettered right to choose.
One other aspect includes the commercial value of user information. Differential tariffs can exploit this value and the lack of a privacy law is a concern here, since such a law would have circumscribed the legitimate use of such user generated and privileged information. In the absence of such a law, it is all the more important that differential pricing plans are vetted carefully by the regulator.
Net Neutrality should be characterised by:
● Users to have unfettered right in choosing content or services to access
● No discretion to service providers to censor or block access
● Service providers cannot throttle lawful internet traffic
● There should be level-playing field for all internet platforms
● Pricing shouldn’t be used as an entry barrier/enabler against competing internet platforms