Amid a debate over net neutrality, the government on Wednesday said it is committed to equal access to Internet for all and will ensure its “non-discriminatory availability”.
“As far as the issue of net neutrality is concerned, for Internet expansion in India, the young people of the country have done a commendable job and my government will strive to ensure a non-discriminatory availability of Internet for the people of India, particularly the young people,” IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here.
Net neutrality calls for equal treatment to all Internet traffic with no priority given to an entity or company based on payment to service providers such as telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.
A major public uproar has been continuing for last few days in the country, especially on social media, alleging violation of net neutrality principle by platforms like Airtel Zero and Internet.org, where Facebook has partnered with Reliance Communications in India.
“I want to assure the people of India, the Prime Minister himself is a great supporter of the profound activism of Indian young people on social media and the great role they are playing,” the Minister said.
He added: “It is a sensitive issue on which we need to take a proper, informed decision. The larger commitment of my government, on which I am very active is, we need to strive for a non-discriminatory Internet availability.”
Telecom regulator Trai, which last month floated a discussion paper on net neutrality, is also looking into the issue.
“Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) is also doing its own consultation process. Trai’s reports will be considered by the Telecom Commission and then the government will take the final call,” Prasad said.
According to the Minister, Internet is the finest creation of human mind, but in order to become truly global, it must have linkage with the local.
“Way back in January 2015 itself, I had constituted a committee of five officers of my department to give me a report on the entire gamut of net neutrality. I have asked them to give me a report by the second week of May. I am awaiting that,” the Minister said.
Launched earlier this month, Airtel Zero is an open-marketing platform that allows customers to access certain mobile apps for free with charges being borne by the 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 has defended its move saying the initiative would be a ‘win-win’ for customers and marketers alike.