Rajeev Chandrasekhar flays 'attempt to cabelise internet'

Countering the stand of telecom firms on the issue of differential pricing for data services, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India about what he calls an attempt to ''cabelise the internet through gate-keeping''.

The Trai consultation paper dated 9 December 2015, had sought comments on the matter of differential pricing. In 'counter comments' to the claim that VoIP and OTT services take away the level playing field, the MP said, ''The need for a free, open and fair internet, however, must supersede this desire of telcos to misuse control and increase profits.''

He says the Trai Act, in its current form, does not have enough teeth to adequately define and enforce consumer rights. ''There is significant evidence that due to the finite number of access providers and limited competition in the sector, there exists a pricing and QoS co-op. There is therefore a need for a strong set of legal consumer rights and a legislation that gives Indian consumers a fair deal.''

Chandrasekhar feels that the Trai Act, in its current form, does not have enough teeth to adequately define and enforce consumer rights. He suggests a clear legislation outlining the basic principles of net neutrality and a set of clear conditions that are binding on telcos.

''Further, the licensing agreements for telcos must include contractual clauses on differential tariffing and other net neutrality principles within the licence agreement for the provision of internet services by TSPs.''

Also, he wants the regulator to ''be vested with increased powers to regulate and punish breaches of net neutrality principles'' by amending the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997. He said telcos cannot be permitted to increase tariffs to access some parts of the web or apps.

''This is a deliberate effort to make access more expensive to some parts of the internet, thereby pricing out the app / site from the consumer. This will amount to gatekeeping and abuse of power by TSPs to discriminate against certain apps.''

Countering Vodafone India's submission that ''differentiated pricing also has societal benefits, ensuring that communications and internet services are accessible, affordable and available,'' the MP said this amounts to suggesting that the cabelisation of the internet and vesting telcos with gatekeeping powers delivers several societal benefits.

''This is false and the reverse is true. Allowing gatekeeping and cabelisation will cause medium to long term disadvantages to consumers, technological innovation and entrepreneurship.''