All CDDRL Publications Case Studies

Differential Pricing for Internet Services in India

March 26, 2021

In February 2015, Facebook unveiled a program to provide Indians with free access to a limited number of internet services. First coined Internet.org and then Free Basics, the program was available exclusively with Reliance Communications, a prominent but struggling telecommunications firm. Criticism mounted from civil society activists and other telecommunications firms claiming the program violated net neutrality and amounted to “digital colonialism.” This case explores how the country’s telecommunication regulator— Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)—undertook a series of public consultations to decide the permissibly of free limited access, also known as zero-rating content. In particular, the case follows the decision-making of TRAI’s Chairman, RS Sharma, as he attempted to balance a mandate to ensure internet access and fairness.