Net neutrality and Free Basics have been a hot topic for discussion this last month, with both the sides trying to prove themselves right. Facebook wanted to launch its plan called “Free Basics”, where there was a proposal of providing people who cannot afford the internet, free access to a set of websites and a few internet based services. This was being opposed by the advocates of net neutrality, who had conflicting beliefs and said that this initiative was in violation of net neutrality. The decision on this issue was to be made by the TRAI, which received a lot of petitions from both the sides.
Interestingly, TRAI’s new open internet policy has some affects on US too as it has increased the pressure on US regulators to address a glaring loophole in US federal policy that allows telecom companies to sidestep rules designed to preserve the internet’s open and freewheeling nature.
TRAI recently came out with a new policy banning “Zero rating” in India. Zero Rating is a practice where mobile operators do not charge end customers for data used by certain application or service, kind of like the toll-free numbers we have. TRAI also banned differential pricing, where a service or product is priced differently based on the user. This stopped the wheels of the Free Basics program of Facebook, leaving them little or no choice at all, which eventually resulted in Free Basics being withdrawn from India.
There is still some debate regarding internet.org or Free basics but as of now they have been shut out of India pertaining to the recent changes in the policies by TRAI. The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg expressed his disappointment in a Facebook post about these new regulations imposed by TRAI, but he went on say that this doesn’t dishearten them and that the team will keep fighting to bring connectivity in India and across the world. This is a moment of victory for all the supporters of net neutrality and the Save The Internet initiative in India. But this doesn’t eradicate the concerns that people still have regarding the internet and such services. Then again,t his is just the beginning, the TRAI is working on more rules and regulations regarding net neutrality and similar issues in the hope of actually saving the internet.