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<nettime> Victory for the unconnected; zero rating blocked in India.
DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT FOUNDATION on Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:17:11 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Victory for the unconnected; zero rating blocked in India.


                      Digital Empowerment Foundation

      Victory for the unconnected; zero rating blocked in India.

                        Internet Rights Are Human Rights


      This newsletter has been specially created to celebrate the Telecom
      Regulatory Authority of India's support of an open and unbiased
      internet in India by passing regulations that prohibit differential
      pricing for data services in the country. This newsletter contains a
      press release, a retrospective of the battle against zero rating and
      links to various resources and press releases from India and abroad.

   Press Release - TRAI stands up for the voices of the unconnected; blocks zero
   rating in India.

      On Feb. 08, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released
      its "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services
      Regulations" -- effectively banning differential pricing arrangements
      (such as zero rating) for internet access.

      The Digital Empowerment Foundation wholeheartedly welcomes these
      regulations and congratulates the Authority on its decision.

      The regulations disallow service providers to offer or charge
      discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content being
      accessed by a consumer. This move effectively bans zero-rated services
      as a necessary measure to keep the internet open and
      non-discriminatory.

      "This ruling will serve to increase internet penetration,
      entrepreneurship and opportunities for NGOs to take up the cause of
      increasing digital uptake", said Osama Manzar, Director, Digital
      Empowerment Foundation. "Prohibiting discriminatory pricing also
      supports Freedom of Expression by ensuring that no service provider can
      play the role of a gatekeeper."

      TRAI has specifically given five set of following guidelines:

      1.   No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for
      data services on the basis of content.

      2.   No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or
      contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal,
      that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being
      offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading
      the prohibition in this regulation.

      3.   Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or
      at times of public emergency has been permitted.

      4.   Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have
      also been specified

      5.   TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.

      They come after a nearly year-long process that saw one of the largest
      mobilisations of individuals online in recent Indian history to come
      out both, in support and against net neutrality. The mobilisation
      around this critical issue demonstrated precisely how important the
      internet is as a platform for voicing citizens' needs, desires, and
      rights.

      The regulations are quite clear regarding the prohibition of any
      discriminatory tariffs on the basis of content and any agreements
      towards the same. TRAI has the final authority on making a decision if
      any service provider is acting in contravention to this principle.

      The Authority has also pointed out that exceptions include services in
      the field of health and law and order, or areas that are affected by
      natural disasters. Chairman RS Sharma pointed out that certain
      communication services could be temporarily zero-rated during
      emergencies in order to ensure that communication is up and running.
      Such tariff would have to be reported to the Authority within seven
      working days from the date of implementation of the reduced tariff.

      Last year, TRAI released a consultation paper seeking views and
      suggestions on whether differential pricing should be allowed, amidst a
      nation-wide net neutrality debate. The regulator wanted to know the
      steps that can ensure the principles of non-discrimination and
      affordable internet access. In response TRAI received over 24 Lakh (2.4
      Million) responses from civil society, industry bodies, individuals
      across the country.

      On the heels of this victory, we encourage further attention to the
      urgent need to ensure open access and widespread network access for the
      millions of unconnected people in India, in particular individuals
      marginalised and living in remote areas.

      DEF, along with other civil society organisations, has previously
      submitted multiple statements in support of network neutrality to the
      TRAI.

       1. http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReadData/ConsultationPaper/Document/201601150344375858433Digital_Empowerment_Foundation.pdf

       2. http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReadData/ConsultationPaper/Document/201601180327042420938Access_Now_n_Ors.pdf

       3. http://www.trai.gov.in/Search.aspx?q=Digital+Empowerment+Foundation&cx=013280925726808751639%3alf1qw-2ckxi&cof=FORID%3a9

   TRAI Vs. Not-So-Free-Basics

      A collection of tweets that present a sampling of the various reactions
      to the TRAI ruling against differential pricing.

      Check out TRAI Vs. Not-So-Free-Basics on Storify

Some interesting links

   InternetRights.In - Digital Empowerment Foundation's program
   advocating for the internet as a basic right and exploring the links
   between human rights and the online space.

   DEF's presentation on Net Neutrality - A presentation on net
   neutrality made by DEF staff, Syed Kazi and Rajat Kumar to new trainess
   at the Centre for the Development for Advanced Computing, NOIDA.

   DEF's submission on consultation paper on OTT services - A
   submission made to TRAI on the treatment of Over-the-top (OTT) services
   in April 2015.

   DEF Submission on Differential Pricing for Data Services - The
   submission made by DEF to TRAI on differential pricing for data
   services in January 2016.

   Submission to TRAI by a coalition of 10 CSOs in support of net
   neutrality - A coalition of CSOs including DEF made a detailed
   submission to TRAI urging the regulator to uphold network neutrality

   India supports the open internet! - A short retrospective

      Abstract

      The story of the battle for network neutrality in India began, in
      earnest, almost a year ago. One of the two major battles currently
      underway has been won; with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
      standing up for the voices of the unconnected and ensuring that service
      providers cannot engage in differential pricing for data services such
      as zero rating in India. This piece recounts the story leading upto the
      current victory and looks to the future with a hope of ensuring that
      the 1.03 billion unconnected in India have an opportunity to engage
      with a open, unbiased internet in the near future.

      One of the greatest online campaigns in Indian history over the status
      of the free and open internet ended recently in a victory. The Telecom
      Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) passed the Prohibition of
      Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016 (PDF).
      These regulations contain five specific guidelines:

       1. "No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for
          data services on the basis of content."
       2. "No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or
          contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or
          legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data
          services being offered or charged by the service provider for the
          purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation."
       3. Reduced/zero-rated tariffs for accessing or providing emergency
          services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
       4. Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have
          also been specified
       5. A review these regulations after a period of two years or earlier
          as it sees fit.

      The regulation also upholds the treatment of the internet as a public
      good, that is managed in trust by the regulator and also blocks any
      move by any service provider to act as a gatekeeper. While not
      addressing the ongoing debate of network neutrality directly, the
      ruling does have far reaching implications in the overall rhetoric.
      Network Neutrality is defined as a situation in which Internet Service
      Providers (ISPs) provide no competitive advantage to specific
      apps/services, either through pricing or Quality of Service (QoS). It
      is also characterised by the following tenets:

       1. All data is created equal
       2. 2.  No form of legal data is more or less equal than others

      The battle for network neutrality began in March, 2015 with the launch
      of Airtel Zero and Internet.Org that claimed to provide free access to
      a select bundle of services. The outcry around the launch led to the
      release of the TRAI Consultation Paper on the Regulatory Framework for
      Over-the-Top Services (PDF). The paper sough to clarify the
      treatment of applications and services which are accessible over the
      internet and ride on operators' networks offering internet access
      services e.g. social networks, search engines, amateur video
      aggregation sites etc (Source).

      The penetration of the internet in India has created an immense playing
      field on which individuals, TSPs, ISPs, Content providers, industry
      bodies and CSOs were able to deliver over 1 million responses to TRAI.
      The Indian comedy troupe All India Bakchod (AIB) uploaded its famous
      "AIB : Save The Internet" video on YouTube (Source) that as of
      publication has 3.4 million views.  This video along with efforts from
      civil society and concerned individuals led to various content partners
      withdrawing from the AirtelZero and Internet.Org platform. As of
      February 2016, TRAI is still deliberating the treatment of OTT services
      and the final decision is still awaited.

      By the end of 2015, while AirtelZero was left more-or-less abandoned
      (Source), Facebook re-launched and rebranded Internet.Org as
      FreeBasics that provided free access to a collection of certain
      services in partnership with Reliance Communication. The backlash to
      FreeBasics led to TRAI to release its Consultation paper on
      Differential Pricing for Data Services in December 2015. This paper
      sought to elicit views on pricing different data services at different
      rates.

      Individuals in support of network neutrality once again banded together
      to stand against Facebook and Reliance. This led to renewed efforts by
      Facebook, Reliance and certain industry associations to gain support of
      FreeBasics. They gathered over 12 million responses in support of
      FreeBasics, by prompting members of its massive user base to fill out a
      web form with a generic message in favour of FreeBasics. However, by
      the end of December 2015, TRAI had banned FreeBasics pending
      investigation into whether it violated the principles of net
      neutrality.

      In Early January 2016, an epistolary argument had broken out between
      TRAI and Facebook regarding the generic text contained in responses
      gathered through Facebook (PDF 1) (PDF 2). TRAI organised an
      open-house discussion (OHD) in late January to gather any additional
      comments on the matter of differential pricing of data services. DEF
      was present at the OHD and made its opinion clear with an emphatic
      outburst by Osama Manzar (Source) and Mr Subho Ray from IAMAI
      (Source)

      In a scenario where TSPs cannot restrict or control the choices of
      consumers, there will be a shift to an extremely high proliferation of
      digital content and services, Internet applications, mobile apps,
      start-ups and entrepreneurship. This ruling should also enable major
      innovations in last mile connectivity, like using the unlicensed
      spectrum; or creating village, panchayat or block-level ISPs. Another
      major avenue of growth would be digitally-capacitated micro enterprises
      that would leverage the free and open Internet to help their businesses
      and connect them to consumers beyond geographies.

      The prohibition of differential pricing for data services heralds an
      age supporting the freedom of choice for the vast number of users in
      India that would be coming online in the next few years. The World
      Development Report 2016, released in January lists India as the country
      with the largest number of offline individuals at 1.063 billion, a
      little less than the next three largest offline populations in the
      world; China, Indonesia and Pakistan. The government has multiple plans
      and mission-mode projects that aim to increase access to the internet &
      digital tools and aims to integrate key governmental services into an
      electronic form.

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