Experience seems to have made telecom operators wiser. More than two years after the net neutrality battle saw them fighting with their backs to the wall to counter the challenges mounted by the content service providers and over-the-top (OTT) players, they have accepted that they lost the perception battle in the first round. It was civil society groups and content service providers who had the last laugh.
Having learned their lessons, their industry body, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), has now chalked out an extensive advocacy plan by which they want to steer the debate in the direction that revolves around their concerns, which they feel is right.
The industry body wants to clearly communicate with all stakeholders — consumers as well as the government and regulators — that there is no universal principle of net neutrality and whatever passes off is defined by national objectives. And the the national objective for our country should be access, bridging the digital divide and enhancing internet proliferation. The priority for India should be the growth of and expansion of networks to connect the whole country digitally, COAI has concluded.
By aligning their campaign on these lines, they plan to fight back and recover ground lost to civil society groups who in the earlier battle had successfully run the “Save the Internet” campaign. COAI now through its campaign wants to delink the Save the Internet kind of campaign from net neutrality.
On the issues that the industry wants to take up with the government, the first would be on developing a regulatory framework for OTT players to ensure same service, same rules. Second, the department of telecommunications would be pressed not to prescribe any ex-ante regulations on net neutrality. Internet of things should also be excluded from its scope. It would also urge the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to review its regulations on differential pricing.