Government of India likely to release the final report on Net Neutrality this week

There were several controversies going on in the past over the issue of Net Neutrality in India. Also, the Government of India was expected to make a formal statement about its stand on net neutrality last month.

Well, now a new report by The Times of India states that the government may most likely go public this week and announce its decision to support net neutrality, which would mean that the Internet would be same for all without any prioritization or discrimination.

Headed by AK Bhargava, a six-member panel had been formed to submit a report on net neutrality. Currently, the DoT report is with the Prime Minister’s Office. It will basically be the backbone of a set of policies around net neutrality put into place. It will also include suggestions from the telecom regular that are yet to be submitted to DoT.

“A panel has the taken the views of all the stakeholders before submitting it to the telecom minister. There were a few critical points of debate such as allowing zero rating plans or not. The report will back the government’s stand unequivocally,” a person familiar with the matter told The Economic Times.

According to net neutrality.in, Net neutrality is an “idea that internet service providers give their customers equal access to all lawful websites and services on the internet, without giving priority to any website over another.”

It means all bits are same on the Internet. It is your wish and will as to what you want to do with the data you pay for — for instance, send a WhatsApp message, watch a YouTube video or make a Skype call. The Internet service provider should not treat certain kinds of bits over others.

Federal Communications Commission, the US telecom regulator last week fined AT&T ($100-million) for reducing the internet speeds on purpose for its unlimited data subscribers after they used up a specific amount of data. The FCC, prodded by the US president Barack Obama supported net neutrality in the US.

While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is still preparing its own report, the DoT report will be made public.

A lot has been spoken and written about net neutrality in India in the past couple of months. The concept of net neutrality became mainstream in India initially in December 2014 after Airtel announced its new Zero marketing platform. It then quickly backed out of its plan and started charging consumers differently over the usage of VoIP services like Skype and Viber over its data networks.

However, exceptionally large outrage pushed its partner Flipkart to walk out of Airtel Zero. Soon after companies like NDTV and Cleartrip walked out of Facebook’s Internet.org, a platform that was very much alike to Airtel Zero.

Expressing disapproval against the rules that warn to change the meaning of the Internet, a website called www.savetheinternet.in has been formed where one could directly send a mail to TRAI, conveying their unwillingness and uneasiness about how telecom carriers are stealing away free Internet from them. It received an inundating response of more than 11 lakh petitions.

Then, for all developers in India, Facebook came up with an ‘open’ Internet.org platform, which has already received strong criticism for bringing the same old rules in a new package.

There also has been news that TRAI is not actually buying Airtel Zero programs or Facebook’s Internet.org and DoT is also batting for net neutrality. Meanwhile, the telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had come forward to disclose that government stands for free and open Internet. Rahul Gandhi, who moved an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha said one million people are engaged in battle for net neutrality and the government is making attempts to cut out the net and give it over to the corporates.

The volunteer group, SavetheInternet, in the mean time is formally asking that telecom companies should be deprived from rolling out any plans and services that fail to comply with Net Neutrality in the absence of a suggestion from TRAI or any decision from the government.

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