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Amid outrage over Facebook Free Basics, TRAI plans to solve net neutrality by 2016

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 2:55 IST

As the debate over net neutrality resurfaces, telecom regulator Trai has said that it is looking to solve the issues "part-by-part" and also aiming to come up with the final guidelines based on the views received from different stakeholders, by early 2016.

"We expect to resolve some of the (issues pertaining to) the basic principles of net neutrality next year," Trai chairman RS Sharma told PTI in an interview.

As per SavetheInternet forum, the net neutrality principle says that internet service providers should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks.

Net neutrality debate

A debate on net neutrality stirred across the country after Airtel decided to charge separately for internet-based calls but withdrew it later after people protested. Internet activists and experts flayed the operator for 'Airtel Zero' service along with Facebook's internet.org service, currently renamed 'Free Basics'."Just as your phone company shouldn't decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP (internet service provider) shouldn't be concerned with the content you view or post online," says the forum.

However, there are issues between telecom operators, internet-based companies and consumer interest which has to be balanced by the regulator.

Amid debate over zero-rating plans and telecom firms offering discounted tariffs for accessing certain websites, Trai issued a consultation paper seeking comments on whether such differential pricing should be allowed.

Facebook's Internet.org had partnered with Reliance Communications in February this year to provide free internet access to many websites as part of the initiative.

"When some issues are big, you need to resolve them part-by-part. We are currently dealing with the issues as they arrive," Sharma said.

Comments on TRAI paper

The regulator till December 23 had received close to 5.7 lakh comments out of which over 5.5 lakh comments are through Facebook's campaign. The paper is open for public comments till December 30 and counter comments till January 7. The social media giant is campaigning aggressively to defend it free internet platform Free Basics.

Trai in March floated a consultation paper on regulation for over-the-top applications like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and net neutrality in March. The paper received over 10 lakh comments which included most of the messages from a digital signature campaign.

We have received large number of comments on that paper. We are working on the comments and hope to finalise approach of Trai in comings months," Sharma said.

He said that telecom networks are gradually moving towards internet-based technology specially with modern services like 4G coming in place.

"We have floated paper on IP based interconnection. We are working on it. We will have to see how calls provided through traditional network and internet work in coming days. This would also lead us to understand cost arbitrage around services," Sharma said.

First published: 28 December 2015, 4:17 IST