The Internet is for everybody and should not benefit just a few, communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Friday, as the government weighs its options on a raging debate over whether telecom firms should influence access to websites.
In a freewheeling interaction with senior editors of HT, Prasad said his government was awaiting the reports of two official panels on ‘net neutrality’ – one by the telecom ministry and the other by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) – before taking a stand.
Net neutrality: We must strive for non-discriminatory net architecture, says Ravi Shankar Prasad
“I am very proactive on this subject … but all of us need to strive for a non-discriminatory net architecture … how it will be done is the question of details that need to be considered,” he said, in comments seen by many as supporting the concept of net neutrality.
Net neutrality is a principle that treats Internet as a public utility which treats traffic equally. It is based on the simple rule that a network and the data that flows through it are two separate entities and implies that the entities that control the network (the telecom companies and the internet service providers or ISPs) should not have any say on the content that move through their networks.
A citizen campaign to uphold ‘net neutrality’ has seen over 750,000 people mailing TRAI over the past few days, before the government formulates guidelines on the matter. The last date for sending comments to TRAI on this issue is April 24.
“When we talk of net-neutrality there are many implications … advantages, limitations, the kind of architecture that we need to address it, the technical and regulatory, we need to examine the best practices that are available globally … these are important to have a structured view.”
The controversy has also singed Airtel which floated platforms that give customers access to websites and certain apps at zero data charge as long as their makers paid them.
Activists have argued the model – called zero rating – violated net neutrality and was inimical to equal treatment of all online traffic, crucial to keeping the internet a level-playing field.
Following the controversy, Flipkart walked out of Airtel Zero while other brands such as Cleartrip and NDTV pulled out of similar arrangements with Facebook’s Internet.org.
Prasad said the Department of Telecommunications report will be published in the second week of May. The TRAI report is due on May 2.
“I believe strongly that Indian youth have done extraordinary work in the field of internet expansion in the country … Indian IT and ITES have today become the toast of the world, by their innovation and hard work.”
“Internet is the one of the finest creations of human mind and if it has to become global, it must have linkage to the local, both in terms of content and innovations.”
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