Rahul Gandhi today accused the government of delaying a decision on the issue of net neutrality on “pretext” of repeated discussions and took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his ‘Digital India’ scheme cannot become a “euphemism” for an Internet controlled by large remote corporations.
Insisting that the Congress has always stood for ‘Freedom of the Internet’ and ‘Net Neutrality’, he said the party wanted that Internet Service Providers (ISPs)/Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) and government should treat all data on Internet equally.
“With Digital India, people would get more access to the Internet â€“ the whole Internet and not primarily a filter on the web. This is imperative for India to grow in 21st Century. I sincerely hope that TRAI report and Modi government will adhere to this bounden need espoused by millions of Indians”, the Congress Vice President said in a statement.
He told the Prime Minister that ‘Digital India’ “cannot become a euphemism for an Internet controlled by large remote corporations. Digital India should mean Internet connectivity as a public utility, open ended and generative.”
“Congress Party’s and my belief is shaped by our faith that Internet users should be free to connect to any website or service that they want, enabling a level playing field on the ‘world wide web’. We recognize the danger of privileging a private platform over a public Internet introducing a new digital divide,” he said.
He wanted government to realise that Internet is a powerful poverty alleviation tool, offering unbounded opportunities limited only by imagination, whether it is a farmer looking for information on monsoon preparedness, artisans connecting with buyers in a market place or a college student from rural India enrolling for an online course.
“NASSCOM has asked for Net Neutrality, over 500 start-up entrepreneurs are pleading for it, young in India have been demanding it, yet we have a government, which under the pretext of repeated discussions, has been delaying framing a clear-cut policy on this”, Gandhi, who has spoken on the issue in Parliament, said attacking the government.
He charged that the BJP government “quietly looked the other way” when Telecom companies introduced price differential through zero rating plans and attempts to charge for OTT (Over The Top) services.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued consultation papers on the issue twice over, covering similar questions for consumers to answer on Net Neutrality, free basics and data price differentiation.
“Like millions of Indians out there, I am earnestly hoping to see a TRAI report (scheduled for 31st January) and Modi government’s commitment in favor of an open Internet in its entirety where there is no ambiguity in regard to difference in pricing or VOIP”, Rahul said.
The Congress Vice President said he was aware that past few months haven’t been easy for Free Internet and Net Neutrality activists, civil society and researchers, who are engaged in the movement to disseminate useful and relevant information to the public despite “misleading marketing gimmicks.”
“I salute their indomitable spirit and would like to congratulate them.”.