IT industry body Nasscom reiterated its stance on net neutrality last week, opposing platforms like Free Basics, which it said violates net neutrality principles. A closer look at its submission to Trai reveals a contentious point, in which it suggests that short term business promotions, lesser than three months should be allowed.
A copy of the submission, emailed to Gadgets 360 by Nasscom, reveals a contradictory stance from its previous response made in response to Trai's consultation paper on Regulatory Framework for OTT Players in April 2015, which states that there should be "No double dipping by Telecom Service Providers."
While lower prices for a telecom operator or its partner's content or service should be explicitly disallowed, short term business promotions that are less than three months should be allowed, Nasscom's submission to Trai states.
"With many TSPs themselves offering different apps, competing products and services differential pricing where rates are lower for select service providers within a class of services will lead to anticompetitive behaviour. The same apprehensions are valid in case of collaborative partner services. Therefore, lower prices in exchange of consideration received from the partner content/ service provider should not be allowed, except for the purpose of short term business promotions that have explicit time duration not exceeding 3 months."
While answering Trai's question on issues that should be considered, the paper further contradicts itself by saying that tariff plans of the telecom service provider should ensure that data charges that are application agnostic, which wouldn't be the case if short term business promotions are allowed.(Also see: Free Basics vs. Free Internet: Your Guide to the Raging Net Neutrality Debate)
According to Nasscom, the telecom regulator should, where warranted, allow differential pricing for certain types or classes of services that are deemed by the regulator to be in public interest. Nasscom states in its response to Trai's first question that "Emergency services, TSPs own maintenance/ billing services, Wi-Fi hotspots, etc. should be offered only on the basis of explicit directives/ approvals of the regulation."
Tariff plans that offer concessional rates for "greater social good" such as increasing Internet access should require prior approval of Trai, even if they are non-commercial in nature and are stated to abide by basic tenets of net neutrality, Nasscom said. Trai would need to check data tariff plans for consistency with various regulatory principles/ guidelines, to ensure that they are:
• Not Anti-competitive
• Not Misleading
Nasscom states that leveraging customer data could result in direct or indirect commercial benefits, and that the absence of a privacy law in India enables widespread abuse or misuse of such personal information for commercial gain. Independent non-profits should be allowed to give approval to differential pricing of services that are in public interest, the submission says.
"We are also opposed to any plan that creates a walled garden that could potentially unfairly discriminate against certain apps, content providers."
In the question discussing alternative business models to differentiated tariff plans, Nasscom suggests schemes like free data access by TSPs, content and service providers at public locations, discount driven time-based models, free Wi-Fi internet access subject as provided by the government with data caps, and corporate CSR initiatives that could drive digital literacy and access.
Trai has asked respondents from Save Free Basics campaign to comment on specific issues rather than following a template provided by Facebook.