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Indian IT industry body bats for net neutrality

By Fakir Balaji

Asserting that the all-pervasive internet had become an aspect of modern living, an Indian IT industry body on Tuesday favoured net neutrality so that it is accessible for the common good of all.

“India should move in the direction of net neutrality as the benefits of the internet are manifold. We are in favour of net neutrality, as internet is a basic infrastructure in the virtual world,” Nasscom president R. Chandrashekhar told IANS.

As the representative body of the $150-billion IT industry, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) is drafting its response to the consultation paper the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had released for ascertaining the views of all the stakeholders on net neutrality.

“We are soon submitting a detailed response to the TRAI paper on the issue, as we are equally concerned about the need to maintain net neutrality not only for the benefit of millions of netizens, but also other users such as entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and other stakeholders,” Chandrashekhar, a former telecom secretary, affirmed.

The last date for responding to the TRAI paper is April 24.

Net neutrality, became a bone of contention after mobile operators) and ISPs (internet service providers) recently sought approval of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to block apps (applications) and websites and charge consumers and businesses for using their bandwidth.

Net Neutrality is a universal principle where all legal internet content is equally accessible to consumers and its service providers should not favour, block or limit access to any of it.

Netizens across the country also objected to telco major Airtel planning a new platform (Airtel Zero) to offer its customers free access to select apps and services but charge firms who sign up with it.

Referring to the critical role converging technologies played in the success of the Indian IT industry, especially the resilient software sector, Chandrashekhar said access to the internet and its usage for various applications, including voice, data, pictures and video have become the modern way of communication worldwide without borders or barriers.

“It is important that we maintain net neutrality, as we are on the cusp of next wave of internet revolution to make India digital and offer a plethora of public services and solutions through the net,” Chandrashekhar pointed out.

Admitting that there were certain issues of other stakeholders, especially mobile operators and internet service providers, to be addressed for sustaining their business, the Nasscom head said net neutrality was essential for the IT industry too, as enterprises, including hundreds of start-ups in the ICT domain, were dependent on net neutrality to make optimal use of the internet.

“The government and the regulator (TRAI) should stipulate norms under which the internet has to be used by all in terms of access and affordability. It is like a highway which so many types of vehicles use and are charged toll (fee) according to a classification. But what vehicles carry should not be the concern of the highway authorities as long as they are legal, safe and valid goods.”

Taking the analogy of a highway, the Nasscom head said operators or service providers are entitled to charge users by registering and classifying them as corporates, enterprises, start-ups, small and medium firms, educational and healthcare institutions, academia and individual users but not charge for what they use the internet for.(IANS)

(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at fakirchand@gmail.com)

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