Industry body ASSOCHAM has strongly opposed any restriction by way of a telecom service provider (TSP) agnostic platform and rather suggested the TRAI to restore the pricing flexibility to licensed TSPs and urgent review of differential pricing regulation.
In a statement ASSOCHAM said allowing technical and commercial flexibility with a level playing field for all businesses in the Internet value chain, including the telecom operators will promote the goals of broad band connectivity, attract investment and innovation, thus allowing consumer choice for internet access. Therefore, the policy framework should encourage variety of Business Models under its forbearance regime with regulatory oversight, rather than mandating or prohibiting certain practices.
Any proposal for creation of TSP agnostic platform will add an unnecessary additional layer between the content providers, TSPs and the consumers that can result in additional costs and lower efficiencies, no clear ownership for consumer grievances.
Indeed, the ASSOCHAM spokesman said, the delegation of pricing flexibility from licensed TSPs to a third party platform owner will have additional costs and would be counter-productive to the objective of affordable internet for all.
The Chamber cautioned that allowing the unregulated third party to provide free data to the exclusion of TSPs may be detrimental to the TSP heavily invested Infrastructure, enabling Digital platform, thus reducing choice and innovation capabilities of TSPs.
Moreover the TSP agnostic platform could also indulge in the gate keeping functions that are being apprehended by the TRAI, difficulty in regulating such platform by TRAI as per the TRAI Act and thereby have no control over such a platform.
ASSOCHAM spokesman further said if the TSP agnostic platform is to be regulated, then why a similar platform cannot be offered by TSPs under a similar regulatory framework. The chamber further cautions that allowing content providers to adopt these models and provide the service will cause loss of revenue to the exchequer amounting to restrict TSPs right to conduct business.
The chamber says, European Union Regulations and the United States of America’s Open Internet Rules both allow differential pricing subject to certain boundaries, maintaining the net neutrality principle. As a result they recognise that it is imperative to provide technical and commercial flexibility to TSPs.
However the same is not being reflected in the current approach of the authority. It is brought out that the TSPs had launched products duly aligned to the thought being advocated by TRAI through this paper but was prohibited later through a regulation.
Therefore, the authority should take a holistic view on the issues relating to OTT services, Net Neutrality, Same Service Same Rules and Differential Pricing and take a de-novo approach to the issue of provisioning free data.