The net neutrality debate in India just became a bit more important, with the PMO stepping into the discussions. According to reports, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the PMO and Harsh Vardhan, Minister of State for Science and Technology, will be meeting with IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today, for the second time in a week. The ministers are reportedly going to make sure that the PMO’s views have been incorporated in the final policy and to discuss the implications of differential pricing of data services, with special focus on the Free Basics platform by Facebook, the Economic Times reported.
The debate over differential pricing of data has been going on in the country for quite a while now. Facebook’s Free Basics service was stopped by TRAI about a month ago, pending a decision by the regulatory body. ET’s source told the publication that the PMO has been watching the space very closely and any policy related to the Internet is important for the success of the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative.
Further, ET also reported that the government is discussing the option to provide limited free data to first time users and free direct benefit transfer around data packs. This will be similar to the LPG subsidy provided to certain sections of the population by the government.
The net neutrality debate started in India with Airtel announcing its Airtel Zero plan. This was followed by Facebook’s Free Basics platform, which provides free access to certain websites. Facebook even launched a massive advertisement campaign in India, with full page ads in national newspapers, along with an editorial article in the Times of India, by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The government’s decision on the matter though has been pending for a while now, but is expected soon enough.