Facebook on Monday changed the text of its email that is being sent to the telecom regulator as part of its “Save Free Basics” campaign, and said that zero-rating platforms like Free Basics should not be banned.
It also addressed the four specific questions that have been asked by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in its paper on “differential pricing of data services”.
“It is not clear that the Free Basics programme should be considered as differential pricing, but even if it is, Free Basics should be allowed under any regulatory framework adopted by TRAI,“
reads the new text, in response to the question on whether telecom service providers should be allowed to have differential pricing for data usage for accessing different websites, applications or platforms
Earlier, Facebook was asking users to send emails to the regulator to show their support for “digital freedom”, and came under fire from several quarters for being misleading and abusing the social network’s market dominance. It is now directly addressing the questions posed by Trai on differential pricing mechanisms.
The change comes five days after Trai chairman RS Sharma said that the consultation paper on differential pricing wasn’t an opinion poll, and that the over 14 lakh comments that came in via Facebook so far are of no use since they don’t answer four specific questions raised by the regulator. “They just can’t say they love Free Basics,” Sharma had said.
In response to the question on alternatives to differential pricing plans, Facebook’s new submission says,
“There are various models that could be used to provide free Internet access. However, Free Basics is the kind of programme that should be allowed under any regulatory framework. It brings more people online faster and provides newly connected users with an onramp to the full Internet.“
Facebook further explains how Free Basics is transparent, and does not pay carriers to exempt its content from usage limits. Trai had released the paper on December 9, and extended the deadline for receiving responses to January 7, 2016.
The Trai paper has kicked up a fresh round of debate on net neutrality primarily focused around Free Basics, which seeks to provide preferential access to the world’s largest social network by striking partnerships with telecom operators.
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