The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday said it will write back to people who have commented through a template supporting Free Basics to answer specific questions asked by it in consultation paper on differential pricing of data. Trai chairman R S Sharma said that the authority has got about 18.27 lakh responses till now out of which 8.9 lakh through phone and 5.44 lakh through Facebook mail supporting Free Basics but the comments did not answer the questions asked by the regulator.
The regulator has received 3.81 lakh comments from people claiming supporters of net neutrality.
Sharma said although these comments are also in a template form but the template answers all the questions with minor variations so there is no need to write back to them. The regulator has received around 12,000 messages other than template based comments.
Trai extended the last date for receiving comments on its paper on differential data pricing to January 7. The date has been extended at a time when social network Facebook has launched a massive campaign in support of its Free Basics Internet service, which has been dubbed in various quarters as violative of the principle of net neutrality. Although the paper by Trai does not mention or use the term net neutrality, it details the idea of zero-rating platforms that have stirred up a big debate on the issue across the country.
The Internet.org project, which Facebook launched in India with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications, was recently renamed as Free Basics and offers free access to some stripped down version of websites and services. In early December, Trai asked Reliance Communications to keep Free Basics in abeyance, till the issue on differential pricing is sorted out.