Govt Could Make Net Neutrality Part of Licence Conditions: Ravi Shankar Prasad

ravishankarThe Centre on Tuesday committed itself to keeping the internet accessible to all with telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asserting that the government agrees with the view that blocking and deliberate slowing down/speeding up of lawful content on internet should not be allowed to give users unrestricted access.

Responding to a discussion on net neutrality initiated by Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien, the minister said the government’s stand is regardless of the recommendations of telecom regulator Trai and indicated that the option of incorporating net neutrality in the licensing conditions is open, even if he is speaking “hypothetically.”

“Let me off-hand say with my legal experience, we have got a proper licensing condition when we give any license to any telecom service operator. Terms and conditions are mentioned in the license itself. Suppose — it is purely hypothetical; I am not giving my final view — the government comes out with structured guidelines laying down the principles on net neutrality. It can make those guidelines as a part of the licensing condition itself. It is only a hypothetical proposition that I am saying. But all these options are open.” Prasad said in Rajya Sabha.

Stressing that Trai has the power to regulate tariff and quality of service, Prasad said its regulations are subject to the overall public policy of the government. “The government has sufficient powers under the Trai Act to invoke national policy objectives to give direction to Trai,” he said.

Since Trai issued the consultation paper on March 27, there has been a viral crusade by campaigners for net neutrality — the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally.