India: Wind Blowing In Favour Of Net Neutrality

In our earlier newsletter article titled "Debate on Net Neutrality in India" published in Vol. VII Issue no. 16 dated April 20, 2015, we had covered the controversy surrounding the net neutrality issue which had suddenly invoked widespread debates in India.

The irony of the entire controversy surrounding Network-Neutrality is the fact that so far there was no incumbent policy or regulatory framework in India which says that net neutrality should be maintained. Non-compliance on the part of a service provider with the 'principle' of Net- Neutrality is something that till now was not patently illegal. The issue received a lot of media attention in December 2014, when telecom giant Airtel revised its service terms for 2G and 3G data packs so that VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) data was excluded from the set amount of free data. This particular move by Airtel was heavily criticized on the Social Media and when asked by the press, the then chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (hereinafter, referred to as TRAI), Rahul Khullar, reiterated the same stating that what the company plans to do is certainly not in conformity with net neutrality. He further stated that one, however, cannot say that the move is illegal today as there is no policy either by the government that net neutrality is our principle or a regulatory framework put in place by the regulator. The only legal justification at that point of time for not opting for Net-Neutrality was that the TRAI guidelines for the United Access Service license, which promotes Net-Neutrality, but does not do enough to enforce it.

Over the course of the next twelve months, the issue of Net-Neutrality had polarized the Telecommunications world. On one side of the debate are the bigwig Internet Service providers like Reliance Communication, Airtel and on the other-side, a heterogeneous mix of vigilant consumers voiced by organizations like the Free Software Movement of India, Free software Foundation of Tamil Nadu, etc. Both the groups have been at loggerheads with each other, with frequent vocal skirmishes and media mud-slinging being all too common. As this debate gained currency, on December 9, 2015, TRAI released a consultation paper on over-the-top services (OTT) and net neutrality named 'Consultation Paper on Differential Pricing for Data Services' where comments and counter comments of concerned stakeholders were invited till January 7, 2016 and January 14, 2016 respectively. The prime objective of the consultation paper was to seek the views of the stakeholders on whether the service providers should be allowed to change differential tariffs based on the website/platform being accessed on the internet. An Open House Discussion was also held on January 21, 2016.

An overwhelming number of the detailed and well-reasoned responses, representing a diverse set of views were received in the consultation process, both in support and against ex ante steps for regulating differential tariff for the data service based on content. After careful examination of all the comments and feedback, TRAI issued the 'Prohibition of the Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016' on February 8, 2016, thus ending the silence of the law on the issue of Net Neutrality. This was done in exercise of TRAI's powers conferred upon it under Section 36(1) read with Sections 11(1)(b)(i) and 11(2) of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act.

The said Regulations bar service providers from offering or charging discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of the content, effectively prohibiting Reliance Communication and Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero platform in their current form. Further, no service provider can enter into any agreement or contract with any person whether natural or legal, that can result into discriminatory tariffs for data services which is offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulations. Reduced tariffs for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency have been permitted. Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified. However, it also provides for an exception and it does not apply to tariffs over closed electronic communication networks. Whether a service provider is in contravention of these regulations or not, the ultimate decision rests with the TRAI. Section 5 of the Act provides for punitive sanctions on the part of the violators. If a service provider acts in contravention of these Regulations, TRAI can order the withdrawal of such tariffs and direct them to pay an amount of INR 50,000 a day, but not exceeding the INR 50 Lakh (5 Million).

This move by TRAI has been met with widespread applause from internet users with some going as far as terming the order a victory for consumers in India. However, Mark Zuckerberg, the Founder of Facebook was not particularly happy with the order, primarily because it means an end to Facebooks' aggressively marketed initiative, which was rechristened to Free Basics in September of last year.

To summarize:

1. The Regulations mandate that no service provider can offer or allow discriminatory pricing for data services based on content.

2. It has also ruled against any arrangement or agreement between any service provider and any person, whether natural or legal, that adheres to differential pricing for data services.

3. Any transgressor if found violating the regulation, will pay a penalty of INR 50,000 for each day of contravention, subject to a maximum penalty of INR 50 Lakhs (5 Million).


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.