Indian telcos ask for details of Facebook-flaying neutrality law

Regulator's Zuck-off to Free Basics has carriers worried they might be in trouble too

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Hard on the heels of India implementing a net-neutrality regulation, its telecommunications carriers have asked the country's regulator to clarify its impact on them.

The regulation was part of a big Zuck-off to Facebook. The regulator said its walled-garden free Internet, “Free Basics”, violated net-neutrality principles by discriminating the price of data according to content.

What worried carriers was that the regulation effectively banned all zero-rated services, and that might get in the way of their negotiations over content supply, peering, and with content distribution networks (CDNs).

Now, the carriers' lobby has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on what exceptions will apply to the rule.

According to India's Economic Times, the ruling doesn't apply to data services in “closed electronic communication networks”, which the telco operators fear creates a grey area.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) plans to ask TRAI “what type of activity would be protected or not be protected on that platform if certain tariffs are used, besides clarity on structuring of various tariffs”.

The aim, COAI director general Rajan Matthews said, is to make sure that carriers' plans don't accidentally violate the new regulation.

A particular concern is where content providers offer differential pricing for telcos, upstream from end users. This is fairly common, since prices paid for service will depend on things like peering arrangements, quality of service, and volume of traffic.

The operators are worried that if different carriers have to charge different prices for the same service, they could find themselves in breach of the new regulation.

Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to keep trying to get free services to India somehow. ®


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