The widespread debate over net neutrality in India seems to be nearning its conclusion. The Indian government has committed itself to keeping the Internet accessible to everyone. Telecom and IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on Tuesday, said that the government is in agreement with the view that blocking and deliberate slowing down or speeding up of lawful content on the Internet shouldn’t be allowed. The Minister said this in response to a net neutrality discussion initiated by Derek O’Brien, member of Parliament from Trinamool Congress.
According to Prasad, the government’s stand on the matter is regardless of the recommendations that TRAI, India’s telecom regulator, puts in. He said that the option to incorporate net neutrality in licensing conditions has been left 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.” Times Of India quoted Prasad as saying.
Further, Prasad also said that the Government stands for ensuring non-discriminatory access to Internet for all citizens of India.
In addition, speaking on the matter of TRAI’s mistep in making the email ids of respondent to its consultation paper public, Prasad said that the email addresses ought to have been safeguarded and he has taken note of the same.
The net neutrality debate in India sprung from telecom company Airtel launching its Airtel Zero plan, which offered certain websites on its network to be accessed without incurring data charges. Regulatory body TRAI issued a consultation paper asking users and all interested parties to send in their thoughts on the matter.
The issue has been taken up in the Parliament on multiple times, with opposition leader Rahul Gandhi also speaking on the matter earlier.