NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has received 18.27 lakh responses to its consultation paper on differential pricing, its chairman R.S. Sharma said on Thursday, adding that analyses showed that a large number of them supported Facebook's Free Basics plans.
Around 8.9 lakh responses through phone and 5.44 lakh through Facebook mail were received supporting Free Basics, Sharma said.
Sharma asserted that the consultation paper was not an opinion poll where people were supposed to answer only four questions for differential pricing.
Industrialist Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCOM) on December 23 said following the Indian telecom regulator's directive, the commercial launch of Facebook's Free Basics has been put on hold till it gets clearance.
RCOM is the only telecom service provider offering Free Basics in India.
The regulator said Facebook's Free Basics service should remain on hold till the ruling on differential pricing comes up.
Differential pricing on data services is an important aspect of net neutrality. Sharma said the decision on differential pricing will come up by January end.
He also mentioned that the Indian telecom watchdog has decided to extend the deadline on comments on the differential pricing paper by another week till January 7.
According to sources, the comments should reach the regulator before January 7 and the regulator will come out with counter-comments by January 14. The deadline for receiving comments ended on Wednesday.
The TRAI on December 9 said differential pricing of data services by various operators might potentially go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff and sought comments or opinions from stakeholders.
It said some service providers were offering differential data tariff, either free or discounted, on certain contents of particular websites, applications or platforms.
"The objective of offering such schemes is claimed to be the desire of various service/content/platform providers to enable consumers, especially the poor, to access certain content on the internet free of charge," the sector regulator said.
It said potentially, both positive and negative effects arise from an economic and regulatory perspective where reduced rates are tied to specific content.
"On the one hand, it appears to make overall internet access more affordable by reducing costs of certain types of content. On the other hand, several negative effects might ensue.
"Differential tariffs result in classification of subscribers based on the content they want to access. This may potentially go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff," it added.