Net Neutrality: Govt committed towards non-discriminatory access to Internet, says Prasad

The government on Friday reiterated its commitment to provide non-discriminatory access to Internet for all in the country and stick to the ‘fundamental principles’ of Net neutrality.

“Government is committed to the fundamental principles and concept of Net neutrality and strives for non- discriminatory access to Internet for all citizens of the country,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written statement to the Rajya Sabha.

Net neutrality implies that equal treatment be accorded to all Internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to content or service providers such as telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.

The neutrality debate flared up in India after telecom operator Airtel launched a platform, Airtel Zero, that would allow free access of some websites on its network. However, the companies were asked to pay Airtel for joining the platform.

The debate recently again picked up steam following a report released by the Department of Telecom panel.

The panel report earned sharp criticism from large section in the country as it proposed regulation of domestic calls made using Internet-based calling or VoIP applications such as Skype, Whatsapp and Viber, and put them on par with phone call services offered by telecom operators.

At present, consumers can make a minute VoIP calls at almost negligible price compared to traditional calls.

The panel also opposed projects like Facebook’s Internet.org, which allows access to certain websites without mobile data charges, while suggesting that similar plans such as Airtel Zero be allowed with prior clearance from TRAI.

“Government has constituted a committee, which has submitted its report to the DoT. The report has been uploaded on website of DoT and MyGov portal on July 16, 2015 for comments and suggestions. The Committee report is not the government report which is yet to take a decision,” Prasad

He further said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is also engaged in consultation process covering the issues related to Net neutrality, whose recommendations are awaited.

“Based on the committee report, comments and suggestions received and recommendations of TRAI, government will take a considered decision on various aspects of Net neutrality in the best interest of country,” Prasad said.

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