Net neutrality debate: Govt for non-discriminatory access

New Delhi: Amid a raging debate over equal Internet access for all, the government on Monday threw its weight behind “non-discriminatory internet access” and said an expert panel is looking into the ‘net neutrality’ issue. 

Anti-trust watchdog CCI might also launch a probe into schemes launched by some telecom operators, including Airtel, Reliance Communications and Uninor, that claim to provide ‘free’ access to certain internet applications, even as the companies defended their stand saying these initiatives did not go against ‘net neutrality’. 

Social media platforms like Twitter continued to remain abuzz, as politicians, filmstars, start-ups and corporates joined the debate, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also said there needs to be a debate on the issue. 

Net neutrality implies equal treatment to all Internet traffic and any priority given to an application or company on payment basis is seen as violating the concept. 

Telecom regulator TRAI, which last month floated a discussion paper on this, is also looking into the issue. 

“Non discriminatory net availability is what we need to strive for,” Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, while adding that an expert committee was looking into the matter and should submit its report within a month to help the government make an informed decision. 

According to the Minister, Internet is one of the finest creations of the human mind and it is a property of the entire human race and not of any country or society. 

“Internet to become entirely global should have a link to local and when we talk of digital inclusion it must be available to the underprivileged and on the margins,” he said. 

Sparking off the debate, telecom major Bharti Airtel launched its ‘Airtel Zero’ marketing platform — where certain apps are available for free with charges borne by app makers. 

Many free Internet advocates and start-ups feel that Airtel’s platform could even “lead to monopolisation by a few and squeeze out the small companies”. 

Airtel itself has defended its move saying the initiative would be a ‘win-win’ for customers and marketers alike. 

Coming out in support of initiatives like that of Airtel, e-commerce major Flipkart.Com’s founder Sachin Bansal, tweeted, “when foreign companies do it in India – innovation. Indians do it – violation”.

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