PMO displeased with Facebook over TRAI paper

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is not happy with Facebook’s response to TRAI’s differential pricing of data services consultation paper. Insider sources allege that the department wants the government’s stand on net neutrality to commit towards free, fair and democratic access to the internet.

Rumors about the PMO’s involvement in the tussle between TRAI and Facebook had first emerged about a month ago. A meeting had apparently taken place on January 15 between a panel made up of Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State in the PMO, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Harsh Vardhan, the Minister of State for science and technology.

Facebook Free Basics

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This committee is set to convene again after TRAI announces its final recommendations regarding differential pricing of data tariffs, which could be declared any day now. One source told the Economic Times that the PMO thinks the administration should not let a platform dominate any information system in India.

If such a situation is allowed to happen, it may result in colossal social, economic and political consequences. For instance, the service might have enough clout to sway public opinion. Facebook has already been trying to shape the latter with its massive Save Free Basics campaign. It’s put up billboards and TV ads across the nation in an effort to convince people to support it.

Also See: Facebook hits back at TRAI for Free Basics accusations

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Facebook had also started an email campaign asking its users to send a message to TRAI. The authority had termed this approach as an attempt to turn the consultation process into a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll. It went on to assert that accepting such a method could have dangerous ramifications for policy-making.

The PMO is still apparently considering the option of providing free mobile data to first-time consumers of the internet. The packs would be handed over along the lines of the LPG subsidy system.

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