The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday sent a reminder to Reliance Communications (RCom) to submit details about its proposed Facebook Free Basics service, as the operator had failed to meet an earlier commitment to share details with the regulator by December 9.
“Response of RCL (Reliance Communication Ltd.) on this issue is still awaited, which may be expedited,” the regulator said in the letter. This follows the regulator’s instructions earlier this month that the launch of the service should be kept in abeyance till it considers all the details.
The mobile services provider had intimated the authority on November 23 that it is offering Facebook’s Free Basics services “free of cost as of now” for its GSM and post paid subscribers. The regulators had, in its reply on December 1, however, pointed out that the operator had not submitted the “terms and conditions and other details” of the service. It had asked Reliance Communication to put the service on hold till “the authority considered all the details and a specific approval is conveyed.”
RCom and Facebook have partnered to offer access to certain applications and websites to users without any data charges in India. However, the service, previously called Internet.org, has been widely criticised for violating Net Neutrality principles and favouring Facebook’s own services over its rivals. On December 7, RCom replied to the regulator and said that the service was being held in “abeyance. It may be kindly noted that the communication from TRAI does not give us any reason for the service being held in abeyance.”
Further, RCom had committed that the detailed terms and conditions will be submitted to TRAI for examination by December 9, 2015. “Request you to kindly have the issue resolved at the earliest so that our subscribers are not inconvenienced in anyway. The service has been introduced with the view to facilitate and encourage data usage in line with the stated goal of the Government of India of ‘Broadband for all’ and ‘Digital India.”
However, since no response was received by TRAI, the regulator issued another letter to the operator seeking details of service. When contacted, a Reliance spokesperson confimed that “As directed by TRAI, the commercial launch of Freebasics has been kept in abeyance, till they consider all details and convey a specific approval.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the issue, Facebook said, “We are committed to Free Basics and to working with Reliance and the relevant authorities to help people in India get connected.”