The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is yet to take a call on whether Bharti Airtel’s platform Airtel Zero violates the principle of net neutrality. Sources in the know of development said the telco was yet to submit a tariff plan for the new platform to the regulator. “To say that Trai is examining the plan and has found anything which violates net neutrality is premature. A tariff plan can only be examined once it is filed before the regulator. Nothing has come before it so far,” an official said.
When contacted a Trai spokesperson told FE, “A newspaper has reported that a senior officer of Trai has indicated that some new plan of telecom service providers violated net neutrality. The report is erroneous and not founded on facts. No officer of Trai has made any such statement”.
Airtel officials also confirmed the firm was yet to formalise a plan for the new platform and only once it was done would they file it with the regulator.
With tariffs being under forbearance, operators do not need prior permission to initiate a new plan.
However, within five days of implementing a new plan they need to file it before Trai which can direct the them to make changes if they believe it is necessary. Airtel Zero is aimed at e-commerce players who, upon partnering with the operator, can offer consumers free download and usage of their apps.
The data charges will be paid to Airtel by the concerned app maker. The platform has been criticised by proponents of net neutrality as violating the principle of equal access to Internet by all. Airtel has defended the plan saying it is an open and non-discriminatory platform where a subscriber gets free content. The operator is neither blocking any site which does not join its platform nor is it throttling their speed.
However, with the criticism reaching a crescendo, one of India’s leading e-commerce players, Flipkart, which had earlier decided to join the platform rescinded from its decision.
Meanwhile, Trai has already initiated a consultative process to determine whether any kind of regulation is required for over the top players (OTT) and what kind of policy and regulatory framework the government should create for net neutrality. The department of telecommunications too has constituted a committee to examine the issue the report which would be out by the second week of May.