The world’s largest social networking site, Facebook, has asked the country’s telecom watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) not to ban zero-rated platforms such as its own Free Basics which aims to provide internet connectivity to most people, in response to an email sent from the watchdog.
The email response from Facebook, according to an Economic Times report, also answers four questions on differential pricing of data services.
“It is not clear that the Free Basics program should be considered as differential pricing, but even if it is, Free Basics should be allowed under any regulatory framework adopted by TRAI. Free Basics is an essential tool for bringing more people online and expanding connectivity across India,” ET quoted Facebook’s response to the question on whether telcos should be permitted to have differential pricing for data usage to access different websites, applications or platforms.
The response also includes the reply to a second question which asks the social networking giant about measures that could be taken to ensure non-discrimination principles in case differential pricing is allowed.
“TRAI should consider whether a program helps to expand connectivity and whether the program is free to both users and content providers, non-exclusive for operators, open to all content providers under objective standards, and transparent about its terms and practices. Free Basics meets all of these criteria,” Facebook wrote.
In addition, TRAI also asked Facebook if there could be other ways other differential pricing to acheive Free Basics goal of providing free internet access to more consumers. To this, the giant responded saying that Free Basics provides an effective onramp for users to quickly begin accessing the broader Internet. “On average, in countries where Free Basics has launched, more than 50% of users who come online through Free Basics choose to pay for data and access the full Internet within 30 days.”
Facebook’s last answer was regarding TRAI’s query to understand know whether there is any other issue that should be considered in the present consultation on differential pricing for data services.
“Despite significant progress, 80% of India’s population – 1 billion people – still are not connected. TRAI must therefore ensure that any regulatory intervention does not end up depriving people of the opportunity to come online. Instead, it needs to create a regulatory environment where access-expanding programs can flourish,” it wrote.