Bits & bytes of the journey of net neutrality in India
Startups and activists have given a thumbs up to the telecom regulator’s decision to bar differential pricing of data products, saying the regulation will set an example for net neutrality debates the world over.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday barred differential pricing of data products, implying that controversial zero-rated products such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero won’t be allowed to be offered in the country.
It said no service provider will be allowed to offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on basis of content. “I am so happy for the startups.
Nobody else will decide if they will be startups for the country or not, nobody else will take a call whether they should be able to put their products in front of millions and billions of Indians. This is the truest happiness Trai has given us,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO of Paytm, told ET.
Minutes after Trai announced its decision Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl tweeted, “Great to see Trai backing #NetNeutrality! Let’s keep the internet free and independent.” InMobi agreed: “I wholeheartedly support Trai’s decision on this issue. Differential pricing for data would have been a huge blow to small businesses, content publishers and users across the country.
The internet is a free and open platform; a single entity should not be allowed that level of control over it,” said Mohit Saxena , InMobi CTO. The telecom regulator saw newfound respect from several quarters, with many taking to Twitter to praise its decision to bring in concrete regulation preventing differential pricing of data services.
“Hats off to the Trai for ruling in favour of a free and open internet. On that note, is #TRAIFan an official hashtag yet? #NetNeutrality,” tweeted Deepinder Goyal, founder of Zomato. Goyal, Paytm’s Sharma, MouthShut.com’s Faisal Farooqui and GoQii’s Vishal Gondal had made submissions to Trai in December, urging it to preserve the opden nature of the internet.
Sharad Sharma, founding member of iSPIRT, a software product think tank, said the regulation will be beneficial for future startups as access to the internet will not be controlled by big corporations.
The volunteerled SaveTheInternet.in coalition said: “We welcome Trai’s regulation which is in favour of Net Neutrality, by putting an end to differential pricing services .” The Internet and Mobile Association of India called Trai’s decision “a bold and fair move”.
Indian software industry body Nasscomwelcomed the move and said: “In line with our recommendation, Trai has retained the provision to allow for reduced tariffs for public emergency.” Only exception Trai has allowed for is that tariffs may be reduced for accessing emergency services or at times of public emergency.
Experts apointed out that it was important that Trai’s decision came in the form of concrete regulation.
“We specially appreciate the fact that Trai’s decision has come in the form of immediately enforceable regulations as we had requested, and not recommendations that require legislative or executive sanction,” said Mishi Choudhary, executive director at Software Freedom Law Centre.
“This is one of those most definitive orders on preserving the basic model of the internet fully,” said Parminder Jeet Singh, executive director at IT for Change, adding that it puts to rest the “misinformation campaign that rich countries can afford neutral internet but poor or developing countries cannot”.