Net neutrality: telecom NGO bats for FB’s platform

New Delhi :Supporting Facebook’s Free Basics service, NGO Telecom Watchdog today said Trai should not stop any service which is offered free to consumers.

“Trai should not reject any proposal that offers free services to general public including the one being offered by Facebook under the brand ‘Free Basics’,” Telecom Watchdog in its comment over Trai’s ‘Consultation Paper on Differential Pricing for Data Services’.

The NGO, which has been co-petitioner in 2G spectrum allocation case of 2008, said that there may be some vested interests who are opposed to any move of providing anything free to the consumers.

It has cited examples of different termination fee charged for SMS of different kinds, Doordarshan channels shown free to viewers and subsidy provided under universal service obligation rules for increasing telecom services access in rural area.

“…so called discriminatory models based on the end-usage of services already prevail”, and “Free Basics from Facebook is a great example of enlightened action by a Technology company to contribute and reduce load on the USO Fund. The government should encourage this,” it said.

It said that the regulator can introduce a ‘Model Standard Interconnection Agreement’ which can be made mandatory for providing free Internet access to ensure transparency.

The project was recently renamed as Free Basics and offers free access to a set of websites and services with the objective of introducing Internet.

Earlier this month, telecom regulator Trai has asked Reliance Communications to keep services of Facebook’s free Internet platform, Free Basics, in abeyance, till the issue on differential pricing is sorted out.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India today extended the last date for receiving comments on its paper on differential data pricing – a key aspect of the raging debate on net neutrality – by about a week to January 7.