The Internet in India is in danger. Telecom companies like Airtel and Idea say that some apps like WhatsApp and Skype hamper their business and profits. They want to be able to block apps and websites to extort more money from consumers and businesses — an extreme violation of net neutrality. They have been lobbying for months with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and a recent draft recommendation on net neutrality by DoT hints that telecom companies may win.
We need to ensure that it’s not only the big telecom companies that the government is hearing, but that our voices are just as loud:
Here are updates on what has been happening over the past few weeks:
TRAI Consultation Process Paused : In April, thanks to the tool built by SaveTheInternet.in, Jhatkaa members and citizens across India joined together to send over a million emails to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) asking for them to uphold net neutrality. That public consultation process has now been paused till TRAI finds a new chairman, which may only happen a few weeks from now, only after which will they send their recommendations to Minister Prasad.
DOT Report Delayed : There was a panel on net neutrality set up in the Department of Telecom (DoT). The draft report they prepared was supposed to be made public a few weeks ago, but the Telecom Ministry is trying to delay releasing it because there are hints that the report may allow violations of net neutrality, specifically around wanting to bring OTTs under a licnese regime
Parliamentary Committee Consultation Underway: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT has been carrying out a consultation process on the issue. For the first consultation only Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were invited, leading to criticism. On 1st July, however, a consultation was held with civil society participants, but the media has reported that the Committee chairperson is still trying to justify telcos wanting to violate net neutrality.
What is net neutrality?
It is the principle that states that all internet services and applications, like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, Flipkart etc. are equally accessible by Internet Service Providers (like Airtel), without favouring or blocking of one or more, regardless of source.
In India, net neutrality stands for the following important concepts:
Watch this video by AIB to know more about net neutrality: