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Differential pricing stopped, differentiation possible still - (08 Feb 2016)


Media and Communication

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India released the ‘Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016’, restraining internet service providers from offering or charging discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. The Regulations do not apply to tariffs for data services over closed electronic communications networks, unless of course the same purport to bypass the Regulations. However, permitted is a reduction in tariff for accessing or providing emergency services or during public emergencies (perfunctory, perhaps, since the Supreme Court stayed mum over States’ authority to block internet access to maintain law and order). Internet service providers contravening provisions of the Regulations can face penalties up to Rs. 50 lakhs. An accompanying Explanatory Memorandum accepted the dilemma forced by a potentially more affordable internet with the possibility of a negative effect on small content providers who would be sidelined. The Regulations made no mention of a selective prioritizing of web content, which is seen as another limb in the creation of “classes” of internet. Whereas data “throttling” suggests a wholesale reduction in download or upload speeds, also is a technical ability of service providers to prioritise delivery (or ‘speed’) of certain data. Such a capability can help manage time-sensitive data when networks face particularly heavy demands from users. Transfer of online videos, for instance, can be prioritised over the delivery of webpages, slowing their download perceptibly or im-, to reduce the incidence of ‘buffering’. So, the next time that Ministry of Finance video on YouTube doesn’t stutter on a Saturday, remember your connection to may be paying the price.


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