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Monday, February 8, 2016

TRAI rules in favour of Net Neutrality, No operator shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services

TRAI has today (the 8th of February 2016) issued the 'Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016' that disallow service providers to offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content being accessed by a consumer. TRAI will impose a penalty of Rs 50,000 a day, capped at Rs 50 lakh, on service providers breaching the rule.

TRAI rules in favour of Net Neutrality, No operator shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services

In this latest regulation, TRAI has made a clear stand against Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero. TRAI issued a Consultation Paper on 'Differential Pricing for Data Services' in December, 2015. This Consultation primarily sought the views of the stakeholders on whether the service providers should be allowed to charge differential tariffs based on the websites / applications / platforms being accessed on the internet.

Based on the responses received and the internal deliberations, the Authority has issued these Regulations. While formulating the Regulations, the Authority has largely been guided by the principles of Net Neutrality seeking to ensure that consumers get unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the internet. These Regulations intend to make data tariffs for access to the internet to be content agnostic.

'Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016'
  • No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
  • 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
  • Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
  • Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified.
Differential pricing for data means charging customers different prices for access to different websites and services. For example, you would get a separate bill for using WhatsApp, another one for watching YouTube videos, yet another one for making a Skype call  etc.


An overwhelming number of detailed and well reasoned responses, representing a diverse set of views were received in the consultation process. There were views suggesting both in support and against ex ante steps for regulating differential tariff for data services based on content.

After careful examination of all the comments and feedback, the Authority has decided that ex ante regulation, rather than a case by case tariff intervention regime, would be more appropriate as it would give the much needed certainty to industry participants. Such a step is also warranted in view of the high costs of regulation in terms of time and resources that will be required for investigating each case of tariff discrimination.

Read More: Net Neutrality in India: Telecom Minister assured Non-Discriminatory Access to Internet to all citizens

TRAI gave service providers six months time to comply with the new regulations. TRAI had issued the Consultation Paper on 'Differential Pricing for Data Services' on 9th December, 2015. Opportunity for submitting written comments and counter comments was given to the stakeholders till 7th January, 2016 and 14th January, 2016, respectively. An Open House Discussion was held on 21st January, 2016 and further time to submit additional comments was given up to 25th January, 2016.

Dear readers, please share your views and opinions about this latest TRAI regulation via comments with us.

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