A war of letters broke out between the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Facebook over what the regulator called the social networking giant’s “crude” attempt at turning the consultation over differential pricing of data services into an “orchestrated opinion poll” on its Free Basics product.
The social networking site hit back in a statement on Wednesday, stressing that the expression of support for Free Basics is “highly relevant” to the debate. Facebook said it “attempted to cooperate” with TRAI.
In a strongly-worded communiqué uploaded on its website on Tuesday night, TRAI slammed Facebook’s approach to the consultation on differential pricing of data services, the irrelevance of template submissions from millions of its users backing Free Basics and the nature of consent it had obtained from these users.
“…Your urging has the flavour of reducing this meaningful consultative exercise designed to produce informed decisions in a transparent manner into a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll,” wrote K.V. Sebastian, Joint Adviser at TRAI, in a January 18 letter to Ms. Ankhi Das, Director, Public Policy, Facebook.
“Neither the spirit nor the letter of a consultative process warrants such an interpretation which, if accepted, has dangerous ramifications for policy-making in India,” Mr. Sebastian warned, terming “wholly misplaced” Facebook’s continued assertion that initial template responses sent by users in support of ‘digital equality’ and ‘Free Basics’ were appropriate responses to the consultation paper.