India Blocks Facebook's Plan for Free Internet

The telecom sector regulator has barred differential pricing of data products, implying that controversial zero-rated products such as Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero won't be allowed to be offered in the country, marking a significant win for the proponents of net neutrality.

"No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on basis of content," the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in a statement.

Trai said that no service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract,that has effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered on basis of content. This in effect disallows subsidised data packages that offer access to only a select services, such as Whatsapp or Twitter, packages which are currently offered by various telcos to attract subscribers.

However, the regulation will not apply to tariffs for data services over closed communication networks, unless tariffs offered evade prohibition of this regulation.

"Only exemption - tariffs may be reduced for accessing emergency services or at times of public emergency," Trai said, adding that in such a case, tariff should be reported to Trai within seven working days from date of implementation of the order.

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