NEW DELHI: India’s strong stand on the subject of net neutrality as expressed through the recommendations by the telecom regulator could become a new lead for the world to follow, electronics and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said.
India’s digital story is going to become a beacon for the world for digital inclusion, he told ET on Tuesday.
Prasad said net neutrality is very important for some of the government’s marque programmes such as Startup India. “It means availability of net for the common entrepreneur from a humble background,” he said.
Two years ago, even though social network giant Facebook garnered massive public support for its Free Basics plan to provide free access to basic Internet services by partnering with telecom companies, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had banned discriminatory pricing of data services, including zero-rated plans such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero.
Prasad was the minister for communications when the issue of net neutrality and differential pricing cropped up in 2015. “For me, it is a matter of personal satisfaction that I had recommended as a former communication minister the issue for consideration for TRAI,” he said.
Prasad had then told Parliament that “right to access to internet is not negotiable”.
“I am very happy that TRAI’s report today in many ways reinforces India’s course for a digitally inclusive world where monopoly of anyone will not be allowed,” he said.
He said India’s pro-net neutrality regulations could be followed by other countries. “So many ministries from other countries meet me and they are very impressed by the Aadhaar story and want to follow it,” he said. “Digital India’s echo is being felt world over. And India’s stand on net neutrality is a new lead for the world to follow.”
In an interview to ET last week, Prasad had said the government had taken a strong stand against Free Basics and is in favour of ‘digital inclusion’ but not in favour of ‘digital monopoly’.