New Delhi, December 20: With an aim to support the Centre’s drive of creating a cashless ecosystem, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India TRAI on Monday recommended that a “reasonable” amount of free mobile internet should be provided to rural subscribers every month. This scheme, the costs of which are suggested to be met from the government’s Universal Service Obligatory Fund (USOF), TRAI said.
“In order to bridge the affordability gap for the persons residing in rural areas and to support the government efforts towards cashless economy by incentivizing digital means, the authority recommends that a scheme under which a reasonable amount of data, say 100 MB per month, may be made available to rural subscribers for free,” said the recommendation to the Department of Telecom.
The Department of Telecommunications charges a cess to telecom operators under the USOF, proceeds from which are used for increasing telecom connectivity by setting up infrastructure across the rural and remote areas of the country.
TRAI recommended that to increase participation of other entities for incentivizing free data, there is a need to introduce third party aggregator to facilitate schemes which are telecom operator agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation.
It has recommended that scheme for free data must be telecom operator agnostic and must not involve any arrangement between the TSP (telecom service provider) and the aggregator/content provider. It should not be designed to circumvent its regulation on free mobile internet services as mentioned under 'The Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations'.
On February 8, TRAI had prohibited various schemes that provided free access of internet to subscribers of specific service providers for accessing specific content. At the time such differential pricing schemes were introduced by Airtel (Airtel Zero), and Reliance Communications with Facebook (Free Basics).
The regulator has recommended that the aggregators providing free data service will need to register with the Department of Telecom and it should be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956.
"The validity of registration shall be five years. The registrant shall not either directly or indirectly, assign or transfer the Registration in any manner whatsoever to a third party either in whole or in part," TRAI said.