Millions is not a problem in a country of over one billion and the powerful lobby of anti-net neutrality of Cellular Operators of India was able to muster a strength of 4 million to override the restriction and provide stage-managed search results for free Internet users.
COAI is pormising free internet-based communication services like WhatsApp and Skype subject to usage of their own sponsored search engines and e-commerce websites, which they claim are norms similar to those applying to mobile phone operators.
“Sabka Internet, Sab ka Vikas — the campaign for net neutrality, net equality and consumer choice, has received support from over 40 lakh Indian mobile users in under a week,” the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said in a statement. “The entire mobile number database of supporters is auditable on request by the appropriate agency,” it said.
The one-week old campaign “Sabka Internet, Sab ka Vikas” wants to made the Internet freely available to every Indian provided they hold control on what services to provide and what websites to throw up first in search results, delaying the major open search engines of Google.
Arguing that the telecom operators are not offered a level playing field with net-based services, they demand that their services would be viable only by raising current data prices by six times, which the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is not allowing.
The ongoing net neutrality debate is becoming a hot subject amid allegations that telecom operators are hurting the concept of free internet access by following the free Internet preferential treatment to a select segement of the people with their own riders.
“COAI started the outreach effort to ensure that mobile customers have the freedom to benefit from the power of the Internet in the way they would wish to, including the choice of platform, device and technology,” said COAI director general Rajan S. Mathews.
The entire concept of net neutrality gained currency with the largest telecom operator Airtel’s launch of an open marketing platform ‘Airtel Zero’, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s consultation paper on whether to allow it or to let telecom firms charge different rates for different uses of Internet data such as e-mail, browsing and for use of apps like Whatsapp, Viber and Skype.