Govt committed to net neutrality: Prasad

Activists staging a protest march in Delhi, to protect net neutrality issue. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar  

Coming out in support of net neutrality, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said the government is committed to keeping Internet accessible and available to all without discrimination.

“Government stands for ensuring non-discriminatory access to Internet for all citizens of the country,” he said while replying to calling attention motion on net neutrality in Rajya Sabha.

Net Neutrality is the principle that service providers should treat all data on the internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, platform, or application.

The government, Mr Prasad said, agrees with the viewpoint that blocking and deliberate slowing down/speeding up of lawful content on Internet should not be allowed and customers should have unrestricted access to all lawful content on internet.

He, however, said the implications of net neutrality would need detailed expert examination with regards to traffic management, national security, integrity of network and investment in infrastructure.

While the debate on Net Neutrality has been on at the global level for a long time, in India it was triggered when country’s largest operator Airtel announced plans to charge customers for VoIP services, such as Skype and Viber. Airtel announced another initiative Airtel Zero, which too received a lot of flak as this was seen as violating Net Neutrality.

The debate gained national momentum when telecom regulator TRAI came out with consultation paper inviting user comments on the subject. Over a million responses were received by the regulator in support of net neutrality.

Mr Prasad said, “While TRAI has the power to regulate tariff and quality of service, its regulations are subject to the overall public policy of the government. On other issues, TRAI can make recommendations and final decision rests with government.”

The Minister said a committee constituted with the mandate to recommend overall policy and technical responses to net neutrality is expected to summit its report by month end.

Based on the panel’s recommendation, the government will take a structured view on the way forward, he added.

Here's all you need to know about net neutrality and the controversy surrounding the issue.

Net neutrality

Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic and content on their networks equally.

How does net neutrality affect you?

The internet is now a level-playing field. Anybody can start up a website, stream music or use social media with the same amount of data that they have purchased with a particular ISP. But in the absence of neutrality, your ISP might favour certain websites over others for which you might have to pay extra. Website A might load at a faster speed than Website B because your ISP has a deal with Website A that Website B cannot afford. It’s like your electricity company charging you extra for using the washing machine, television and microwave oven above and beyond what you are already paying.

Why now?

Late last month, Trai released a draft consultation paper seeking views from the industry and the general public on the need for regulations for over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber etc, security concerns and net neutrality. The objective of this consultation paper, the regulator said, was to analyse the implications of the growth of OTTs and consider whether or not changes were required in the current regulatory framework.

What is an OTT?

OTT or over-the-top refers to applications and services which are accessible over the internet and ride on operators' networks offering internet access services. The best known examples of OTT are Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, e-commerce sites, Ola, Facebook messenger. The OTTs are not bound by any regulations. The Trai is of the view that the lack of regulations poses a threat to security and there’s a need for government’s intervention to ensure a level playing field in terms of regulatory compliance.


>Privileging telcos over netizens - Prabir Purkayastha The sort of closed Internet that TRAI is proposing, in defiance of the principle of net neutrality, is no longer on the discussion agenda in any country.

>Live Chat: The Hindu conducted a live chat on how net neutrality affects users. The panel included Pranesh Prakash from Centre for Internet and Society, Vijay Anand from The Start Up Centre and Sriram Srinivasan, The Hindu's Business Editor - Online.

Key players

  • Internet Service Providers like Airtel, Vodaphone, Reliance...
  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India which lays down the rules for telecom companies
  • The Internet companies like Facebook, Google, whatsapp and other smaller startups
  • You, the consumer

The Hindu Editorials

  • > The importance of Net neutrality: Should the Internet be touched? That's one way to summarise the twenty questions the TRAI has asked the public in a recent consultation paper.
  • > Blow for Net neutrality: Flipkart had to contain the fallout after Airtel Zero was severely criticised by the proponents of Net neutrality, the principle that all Internet traffic has to be treated equally.

>News analysis: Flipkart and flipside

Is Flipkart so naive not to know the implications of Airtel Zero for the overall Internet ecosystem?

>Here's why you're wrong, Mr. Zuckerberg

The Facebook founder said universal connectivity and net neutrality can co-exist.

>Here's all you need to know on the issue

Missed the debate? A look at the issue of Net neutrality and the controversy surrounding it.

>Telecom Ministry to submit report by May 9

The government has set up a six-member committee to examine the issue of Net neutrality.


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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 7:17:09 AM |

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