Interview questions and answers based on TRAI’s ruling that prohibits differential pricing models –

Context : TRAI’s ruled that disallows service providers to offer or charge a discriminatory tariff for data service of content being accessed by consumers after a lengthy consultation procedure which actually started on Dec 9th, 2015. After hearing all the sides TRAI decided to rule in favor of pro netneutrality campaigners agreeing almost all the demands raised by them (us).

How it benefit in the rural areas?

I don’t think TRAI’s yesterday’s ruling alone would do any magic to connect the unconnected Indians. Particularly rural areas were ignored where 70% of Indian population resides. According to telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI), India’s ICT usage and access on a global scale have been ranked at 129 out of 166 countries. “India is categorized in the least connected countries group of 42 nations that fall within the low IDI (ICT Development Index) group. Major challenges before the government could be building ITC infrastructure across the nation. Based on this GOI can form policies that encourage domestic IT and ITeS business models which could accelerate the reach of IT to all section of the entire nation, thus bridging the growing digital divide.

Will the people be happy about it as many of the people in rural use BSNL and MTNL ?

If the people are happy with LIC or SBI why not BSNL and MTNL. GOI should pay enough attention to improving the service quality of BSNL/ MTNL India’s largest telecoms providers. I personally find current gov encourage privatization by citing the over expenses of managing gov sector companies. This attitude has to be changed. A Large section of our country depends on public sector firms.

Are there any other challenges the internet is facing?

Technological advancement has made the Internet as the medium of revenue generation. There are innumerable business institutions across the world mainly depend on the Internet. The open and democratic nature of Internet is a block for many corporate giants to generate revenues far beyond what they make now. Monopolizing the Internet is the another option for them which is not possible without hindering neutrality of the Internet. UNO has already declared that the Internet is also fundamental rights to every individual in the world. In the absence of well-defined laws that ensure such fundamental rights is the biggest concern at present.

What do you think about Free basics?

The Internet functions as a global network in which anyone can connect, receive and provide content without any discrimination. People pay for the amount of data they want to use and/or the speed with which they want to access the Internet. When connected, people can access any web site or service without any discrimination. One provider’s site is accessible to all its visitors, just as that of any of their competitors. This makes the Internet neutral to all, providers and consumers. Programmes like Free Basics, which is just a new misleading name for the earlier Internet.org, seeks to provide a minuscule subset of Internet, without charging the users for data usage by partnering with telecom operators. Although this provides free access to maybe a few hundred websites out of over a billion, it also creates a barrier for users to go outside that perimeter to avoid charges. Moreover, the freely available services are ultimately controlled by Facebook. This gives an unfair competitive advantage to those websites over the ones which aren’t included in the ‘package’. We are watching the developments around the Google-RailTel deal closely and waiting for more details to emerge. We can imagine a few problems that may arise out of such deals if left unquestioned, but it depends on how they propose to implement the services.

What’s going to change when these rules are adopted?

The ruling emphasizes that No service provider shall offer or change discriminatory tariff for data service on the basis of content, which means that net neutrality has to be protected. Zero rating plans like airtel zero and facebook’s free basics can not be implemented as long this ruling is in effect. The Internet to continue to be the Internet how it was, where facebook or twitter like companies emerged. A free competitive platform where anyone with IT knowledge and talent can find their business. And the Internet continues to be unbiased. However, the arguments raised by facebooks for the promotion of “free basics” service remains. i.e growing digital divide. The recently announced digital India project gives more hope to the people of the country.