India joins 'net neutrality debate

'Free Facebook traffic' considered OTT

Ganesha street art by Flickr user avlxyz https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/

Mobile carrier app deals like “Free Facebook with your plan” have controversially entered India's nascent internet neutrality debate, courtesy of that country's regulator and its tech minister.

While America is dealing with the inevitable lawsuits over its 'net neutrality rules, India's Telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that all internet access should be non-discriminatory, and seems to include OTT-carrier deals in his scope.

At the same time, India's Economic Times reported that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was eyeing “free app” deals launched by the country's major mobile carriers.

The bundling debate was kicked off by Bharti Airtel, under its Airtel Zero plan in which a select crowd of app makers pay for their app traffic so users can access the apps without paying data fees.

India's competition regulator is also concerned that such arrangements might spark monopolistic trends, in which a handful of apps dominate because of their ability to sling money at carriers.

The minister has told TRAI to set up a six-member expert committee – due to report at the start of May – to “strive for” non-discriminatory access. A site set up to gather citizen responses, called Savetheinternet.in, claims to have forwarded 100,000 messages to ministers and TRAI about the issue.

The Economic Times added that Reliance Communications and Uninor have similar deals with app companies. ®

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