New Delhi April 20 2015: The Cellular Operators Association of India representing GSM service providers, is the latest to affirm support for Net Neutrality in India and make a strong pitch for ‘Net Equality’ that will enable access to Internet for a Billion Indians as part of the Government’s Digital India vision.
The Association urged all stakeholders to have a comprehensive and informed debate on the subject of Net Neutrality keeping in mind the requirements of India and its citizens. An important and complex subject such as this, which is still being debated in many countries, which has taken years to conclude in many other countries and which is the subject of litigation in some, should not be left to the opinion of a few, the COAI statement said adding:
"We support an open Internet and believe that consumers, should decide what to do online. Our job is to enable consumers to benefit from that freedom.We offer choice and do not block or provide any preferential access to any web site or app."
The industry association added that India’s telecom revolution has empowered over 950 million citizens through affordable services and the Internet revolution must now touch every citizen of the country.
Meanwhile the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which put out a consulation paper on the subject of Net Neutrality is said to have been flooded with hundreds of thousands of petitions against any attempt to limit the free use of Internet in response to the concerns of telecom operators having to face the reality of Over the Top (OTT) services like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and GoogleTalk.
The TRAI paper appeared to many oberver to be anticipating the case for operators and on Sunday Chairman Rahul Khullar articulated the Authority's concern in a somewhat left handed fashion: “There has to be a democratic debate... Shrill voices do not win debate. Cool-headed, reasoned arguments on both sides are the need of the hour....There are different practices in different jurisdictions. UK and parts of Europe do not practice strict net-neutrality. Even in US, zero rating plans are permissible. The public has till April 24 to send its views to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, some prominent online commerce players including ClearTrip, MakeMyTrip and FlipKart backed out of arrangements that might be perceived as violating strict Net Neutrality. The Times of India group , many of whose Net sites had signed up with the Reliance - Internet.org initiative did some classic fence sitting saying in effect: we will back off, but only if all other media entities do likewise!