With the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) expected to take a decision on differential pricing for data services soon, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday once again lent his support for net neutrality in the country. He accused the BJP-led government of delaying a decision and attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his “Digital India (scheme) cannot become a euphemism for an Internet controlled by large remote corporations”.
“NASSCOM has asked for net neutrality. Over 500 start-up entrepreneurs are pleading for it. The young in India have been demanding it. Yet, we have a government, which under the pretext of repeated discussions, has been delaying framing a clear-cut policy on this,” he said.
Stating that TRAI has issued consultation papers on the issue twice by seeking consumers’ view on net neutrality, free basics and data price differentiation, Rahul accused the BJP government of having “quietly looked the other way when telecom companies introduced price differential through zero rating plans and attempts to charge for OTT (Over The Top) services”.
He said the Congress has stood for freedom of the Internet and net neutrality. “We believe that Internet service providers (ISPs)/ telecom service providers (TSPs) and government should treat all data on Internet equally. Congress party’s and my belief is shaped by our faith that Internet users should be free to connect to any website or service that they want, enabling a level-playing field on the ‘world wide web’. We recognise the danger of privileging a private platform over a public Internet introducing a new digital divide,” he added.
He expressed hope to see a TRAI report and Modi government’s commitment in favour of an open Internet in its entirety where there is no ambiguity in regard to difference in pricing. “Digital India should mean Internet connectivity as a public utility, open ended and generative. With Digital India, people would get more access to the Internet —the whole Internet —and not primarily a filter on the web. This is imperative for India to grow in the 21st century. I sincerely hope that TRAI report and Modi government will adhere to this bounden need espoused by millions of Indians,” he added.
He also praised net neutrality activists and civil society for their effort to to disseminate useful and relevant information to the public on the issue.
“I’m aware that the past few months haven’t been easy for free Internet and net neutrality activists, civil society and researchers, who are engaged in the movement to disseminate useful and relevant information to the public despite misleading marketing gimmicks. I salute their indomitable spirit and would like to congratulate them,” he said.