The Indian government may ban the controversial 'zero rating' plans proposed by companies in its final policy on net neutrality, according to reports. However, it could make an exemption for delivery of essential government services like health and education on a preferential basis.
According to reports, the telecom commission has arranged a six member committee who will submit a report along with recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority before it finalises its stand. The final policy will then be vetted by the telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. “Zero rating plans that involve commercial arrangements at the back-end violate the idea of net neutrality as they seem to provide discriminatory access to certain apps," a senior telecom department official stated. "However, it is of the view that the definition (of net neutrality) should not be at cross-purposes with the government's policy," another official stated. The policy as envisaged in the 'Digital India' plan, should be delivered on a preferential basis to end-users. "The policy will allow for positive discrimination," the person added.
According to reports, the DoT committee has met with 45 organisations including ecommerce retailer Flipkart, Amazon, internet giant Facebook, Google, among others as well as with telecom service providers and various public interest groups in the last few months. "A few members of the committee have so far made a presentation to the telecom minister explaining rules on net neutrality worldwide," the person added. However the source stated that the zero score plans could lead to destructive discrimination. “If an web service supplier or a telecom operator begins sending alerts that a web site you’re about to entry will probably be charged however a rival web site might be browsed freed from value, it’s destructive discrimination”.
Recently, Bharti Airtel came under controversy after it launched Airtel Zero, in which customers could access some apps for free, while have to pay a fee for others. Facebook’s Internet.org, has also come beneath scrutiny for allegedly violating internet neutrality. Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar has also clearly stated that the federal government is in favour of internet neutrality as it ensures a non-discriminatory entry to the web for all residents of the nation.