Monday, January 24, 2022

Dear PM, save Net Neutrality if you want the next Google from India: Tech startups in open letter

The online push for Net Neutrality in India continues with tech startups writing an open letter to the Prime Minister, asking him to come out and support them on the issue.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
April 22, 2015 9:51:29 am
Net Neutrality, Internet, Internet in India, Tech start-ups have written a letter to PM on Net Neutrality.

The online push for Net Neutrality in India continues with tech startups writing an open letter to the Prime Minister, asking him to come out and support them on the issue.

The letter which has been put up on the ‘savetheinternet.in’ website has been signed by start-ups like Housing.com, Goibibo, Medinama, Scrollback to name a few.

The letter reads,

Dear Sir,

We are writing to you as founders and stakeholders of Indian internet-enabled start-ups.

Each of us set out on this entrepreneurial journey dreaming of creating world-leading companies from India. There is no reason why an Indian company cannot be the next Google, Facebook or Amazon. We know that you share our dream; you put it into words: Make in India.

We share another dream with you, the dream of a Digital India. We dream of this as Indians, and also as businesses that wish to serve a fast-growing Indian market. The Internet gives us all the potential to do that.

But for these dreams to come true, we need an open Internet.”

They also make a strong pitch against licensing saying, “If internet-enabled start-ups or online service providers had to first obtain a government license, or pay each Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the world—there are tens of thousands of them—this global market and competition, and the innovation and progress, would all disappear.” 

The letter also slams the zero-rating app and points out that it isn’t really about providing access to the poor but rather about capturing more consumers.

The letter by tech start-ups in support of Net Neutrality reads on zero-rating, “The handful of sites that they (zero-ratings) offer in their packages—a few dozen at most—is a mere sliver of the over 100 crore websites that the Internet currently offers. As to including the poor, the sites in these “free” offerings are primarily aimed at luring away the primarily middle-class customers of their competitors rather than the poor or those who currently lack access.” 

The letter ends by saying,

We request that network neutrality is enforced and all discriminatory practices by ISPs are forbidden, including zero-rating, throttling, blocking, paid prioritisation, toll-gating and others. We also hope that the regressive proposal to license online services will be dropped.

We request TRAI to publish all the responses and counter-responses to the consultation, including any other additional material, on its website.

For better public involvement and awareness, we request that open-house debates be held in major Indian cities after the consultation process is over. 

You can read the full letter over here.

As far as the  whole debate on Net Neutrality is concerned, 24 April is the last date to send responses to the Telecomm Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). So far over 9 lakh emails have been received by the authority.

More recently, TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar had told PTI,  “There has to be democratic debate. It’s a debate that is waiting to happen. Shrill voices do not win debate. Cool headed reasoned arguments on both sides are need of the hour.”

“There are different practices in different jurisdictions. UK and parts of Europe do not practice strict net-neutrality. Even in US zero rating plans are permissible,” he said, while replying to a question on whether India was in a position to align with the global net-neutrality principles.

He had also told Indian Express before that a corporate war between a media house and a teleco was muddling the debate.

More recently the Cellular Operators Association of India had said that while they support Net Neutrality, this was
“an important and complex subject which is still being debated in many countries, which has taken years to conclude in many other countries and which is the subject of litigation in some, should not be left to the opinion of a few.”

It remains to be seen what recommendations TRAI will give after 9 May on its paper which calls for possible regulation of OTTs.

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