TRAI Refuses to Bow down to Facebook on Free Basics. Here’s Its Latest Letter to the Giant.


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T he Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Facebook don’t seem to be getting along too well these days. In fact, TRAI has slammed Facebook’s attempts to promote Free Basics.

A  letter sent by the regulatory body to Facebook, indicates that the social media giant’s recent campaign on Free Basics has not gone down well with TRAI.

Free Basics is a platform through which Facebook promises to offer a limited number of websites to people for free.

free basics

Photo credit: Facebook

However, there are concerns that this violates the principles of net neutrality.

screengrab of letter

Photo source: TRAI

In the letter, TRAI has expressed its reservations about how Facebook tried to turn what was supposed to be a consultative exercise, on differential pricing of data services, into a ” crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll”.

Differential pricing will allow telecom companies to offer access to a few mobile apps and websites, without charging users.

TRAI Chairman R.S. Sharma had told Business Standard that “the consultation paper was not an opinion poll and the 1.4 million comments from Facebook’s users were in a standard template and language that did not answer queries in the paper.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has accused TRAI of blocking emails people were sending, through it’s website, on differential pricing –  a key aspect of net neutrality.

According to reports, Facebook had written to TRAI saying that “despite clear and timely efforts by millions of Indians to send their comments, someone with access to designated TRAI email account, appears to have blocked receipt of all emails from Facebook to that account.”

According to TRAI, it has received around 1.89 million responses, while Facebook says more than 11 million responses supporting Free Basics has been sent to the regulatory body, say reports.

This disparity in the number of responses has become the bone of contention between TRAI and Facebook.

An open house on differential pricing of data services will be held by TRAI on January 21.

It has invited all stakeholders to participate.

It now remains to be seen if the event will lead to a consensus among the stakeholders.

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