The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a draft paper (pdf) directed towards all telecom service providers providing broadband, wireline or wireless services, to provide information on how Fair Usage Policy (FUP) is applied. The agency is currently looking for comments and counter comments (pdf) from stakeholders for the same.
As per the draft paper broadband providers will have to show on their website, as well as on all advertisements published through any media:
For fixed broadband:
– The data usage limit with specified speed
– The speed off the connection up to the data usage limit
– The speed of the connection after crossing the data limit
For mobile broadband:
– The data usage limit with the 3G or 4G plan
– The technology (3G/4G) used till user reaches the data cap
– The technology (3G/4G/2G) used once the user crosses the data cap
Broadband service providers will have to provide this information to existing and new subscribers as well, over their registered email address and through SMS. Service providers will also be required to email, send an SMS or a USSD to customers when they reach 80% of the data cap. Fixed broadband providers will have to ensure that such an alert is provided at each login after crossing the 80% data cap. Additionally, fixed broadband providers will have to provide a minimum speed of 512kbps, even post the data cap.
TRAI’s previous directive: In July 2012, the TRAI had issued a new directive to telecom service providers which provide broadband services, asking them to deliver internet services in a more transparent manner, by providing sufficient information to customers. The directive asked telecom operators to provide customers enough information about various existing plans and the applicable Fair usage policy (FUP). It had also directed service providers to ensure that the connection speed doesn’t go below the minimum specified speed, and that providers alert subscribers whenever their data usage reaches 80% and 100% of the data usage limit, in their respective plans.
This was after the TRAI had issued a similar directive asking service providers to refrain from misleading tariff advertisements, so that subscribers could choose services and tariff plans, without being lured by attractive options that come with a fine print.
MediaNama’s take: Note that we have reported before how almost every internet service provider imposes an FUP without full disclosure, and at times even advertising it as unlimited plans. We had said then that despite laying out its rules in 2012, TRAI has either been unwilling, or unable to stop telecom operators from misleading customers with FUP plans marketed as unlimited. With the current draft requiring broadband providers to be upfront about FUP limits and subsequent speeds received after that, it won’t be as easy to mask FUP plans as unlimited plans.
The other issue TRAI brought up is to fix the minimum broadband speed (for fixed connections) to 512kbps. We feel this should limit should be higher, at the very least 2mbps, and should apply to mobile broadband providers as well. The condition of internet access in India is already pretty abysmal; the country ranks second worst in Asia-Pacific with an average connection speed of 2.3mbps. Keeping the minimum speed as low as 512kbps will not help much.