New Delhi: Telecom operators have supported differential pricing for data usage for accessing different websites, applications or platforms as they feel it is critical for promoting innovation in the Internet eco-system and bringing more people online.
In a joint representation submitted to telecom regulator Trai through industry bodies COAI and AUSPI, operators have said differential pricing schemes should be non-discriminatory.
In its submissions to Trai, the industry bodies in a joint letter said, "For the growth of data service, price differentiation for data services can be allowed."
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has received around 24 lakh comments on its consultation paper on differential pricing for data services, a key aspect of net neutrality.
A debate on net neutrality stirred across the country after Airtel decided to charge separately for Internet-based calls but withdrew it later after people protested. The debate heated up after Airtel launched free Internet platform Airtel Zero and later Facebook also launched its Internet.Org platform, renamed as Free Basics.
"We firmly believe that the differential pricing is critical for promoting innovation in the Internet eco-system, bringing more people online and for greater digital equality, digital economy, digital infrastructure, digital empowerment and promoting government and services on demand," operators
They said differential pricing is also essential for promoting the vision of 'Make in India' where getting small manufacturers on to supply chain of e-commerce players will need significant innovation in pricing and access.
The bodies said telecom operators are already offering differential tariffs for various voice and SMS components, such as local call, STD call, ISD call, roaming call, on and off net call, day and night call.
"Such differential tariffs for voice have only enhanced the affordability of telecom services in India. On the contrary, a uniform tariff for all types of calls would have increased the call rates in India especially the local call and would have adversely affect the interest of low-pricing customers," it said.
The industry bodies said currently, Internet-based companies are experimenting with various marketing innovations and business models to promote their services and differential data service plans including platform offering free Internet that can facilitate such marketing innovation or business models.
"Therefore, TSPs should be allowed to offer differential tariff for specific content/ website till it is non-discriminatory," it said.