STI Statement on outcome of TRAI consultation on Differential Pricing of Data Services coalition welcomes TRAI order on differential pricing issues of Net Neutrality

The Coalition would like to again thank the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and its chairman Mr RS Sharma for initiating the consultation on Differential Pricing for data services by issuing the consultation paper on December 9, 2015 and considering the various comments and countercomments submitted by stakeholders including those made by The Coalition and its many supporters.

The Coalition welcomes the TRAI’s regulation dated 8 February 2016 which is in favour of Net Neutrality, by putting an end to differential pricing services which would have allowed telecom operators to break the Internet and become gate-keepers and toll-collectors.

The consultation on Net Neutrality, which began in March 2015, has been a truly democratic process with millions of Indians participating, including Internet users, members of Parliament, civil society organisations, entrepreneurs, industry, academics, media entities, content creators, artists, telecom operators, internet service providers and many others. Despite attempts by a few stakeholders to undermine this process, TRAI has stood firm, which is a testament to India’s maturing regulatory framework.

Those volunteering with would, in particular, like to thank everyone in India and around the world who came out in support of Net Neutrality for their contribution and support throughout this movement. This includes lakhs of individuals, research organizations, advocacy groups, professors and academic institutions, captains of industry, and politicians cutting across party lines. We would also like to thank the media for sharing our positions with the public. We look forward to your continued support in ensuring that the internet remains free and open for all Indians.

We’d also like to thank the Government of India and in particular, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for their continued support and commitment to programmes for improving access to the Internet, such as Digital India, and their support for entrepreneurship, such as Startup India. For such initiatives to succeed in serving the growing needs and aspirations of Indian society and economy, it is imperative that Net Neutrality is observed.

However, it is important to remember the following:

  1. Two key aspects of the Net Neutrality consultation that remain: firstly, the proposed requirement for providers of VoIP services like Whatsapp, Viber and Skype to obtain a government licence, which would mean that telecom operators could be required to treat traffic from unlicensed VoIP providers differently from the rest, and secondly, allowing telecom operators the ability to slow down and speed up websites, giving them the ability to play king-makers and gate-keepers. Citizens should be vigilant, as always, and should consider participating in this process in the future. SaveTheInternet opposes any form of licensing of Internet Services. This includes VoIP.

  2. Telecom operators, during the course of the last year, have mentioned that they are likely to go to court if the TRAI verdict doesn’t go their way. We would request them from refraining from doing so: such an anti-consumer move would be unfortunate, as we believe Net Neutrality would be covered under free speech protections provided under Article 19 of the Indian constitution.

Additionally, TRAI also has a consultation process that is on-going regarding the pricing of broadband services in India. We urge everyone to participate in the process to ensure that broadband services are transparently priced and fair-use policies are clearly communicated and implemented. Details of that consultation are here:

We hope, now that the TRAI has exercised its powers and issued a tariff order, that this matter rests here. We are aware that telecom operators have said in the past that they are likely to go to court. Such a move would only delay the process of India taking a final decision on Net Neutrality, and would be harmful for consumers.

As a group of volunteers working for ensuring Net Neutrality in India, we thank the TRAI for taking this position.

Thanking you,

PS: The TRAI order is now public and we will have additional comments after reviewing it.