The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has extended the deadlines for comments and counter comments for consultation paper on free data. Taking note of the stakeholder’s request, the respective dates have been extended to 30th June for written comments and 14th July for counter comments. The primary reason for issuing the paper was to explore models that could identify the benefits of offering free data. Thepaper stated, “The model should use the principles of open, transparent and equal access to consumer services by all consumers and all businesses. TRAI believes that the proposed model should not hold back innovation and the opportunity to increase internet penetration and usage”. The regulator said it aimed to connect the unconnected, but raised the prospect of another battle over net neutrality. TRAI has also suggested three models--one, a toll-free platform for users where browsing will be free, two, consumers paying upfront and subsequently reimbursed and three, applications that reward users with incentives such as recharge for data or voice usage.
Backers of net neutrality had criticised the first two models, saying they violate the spirit of a free and neutral Internet, and that the toll-free model was akin to zero-rating products such as Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero.
TRAI earlier endorsed the concept of net neutrality wherein it said no to the discriminatory pricing of data content and this ruling was appreciated by the user base across the country.
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