TRAI stands by its recommendation of offering 100 MB free data to rural users, DoT questions plan's feasibility

Standing by its initial recommendations to the Department of Telecom (DoT), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is reportedly pushing its plan for giving out 100 MB of free data to rural users.

The Economic Times reports that given the entry of Reliance Jio and its aggressively priced data plans, TRAI has modified the scope of its recommendations to include a renewed focus on "connectivity and local language content."

Children watching on a mobile phone in rural areas of India. Reuters

Children watching on a mobile phone in rural areas of India. Reuters

TRAI's stance on net neutrality and its recommendations against discriminatory pricing might hamper the implementation of such a plan. ET reports that TRAI intends to dip into the Universal Services Obligation Fund to finance the endeavour.

In a statement, made public by the telecom body on 29 November, it said "The authority had based its recommendations on the data prices existing in September 2016. However, the authority takes cognisance of the fact that after entry of a new player with focus on data services, the competition in the data market segment has become more intense and consequently, there has been a steep decline in data prices during the last one year".

According to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), TRAI's data plan cannot be funded via the Universal Services Obligation Fund as the funds are already being used for various telecom infrastructure-related plans. The DoT is also concerned about the impact the plan will have in implementing net neutrality rules.

Recently, TRAI came out in full support of net neutrality and also issued its recommendations on net neutrality, which specifically recommend that license terms be amplified to restrict any kind of discrimination to internet access.

These recommendations would be taken into consideration by the Department of Telecom when it sets about formulating new rules relating to internet access and OTT (over the top) services.

Disclosure: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd

Published Date: Nov 30, 2017 09:38 AM | Updated Date: Nov 30, 2017 10:15 AM