Coming out strongly in support of net neutrality, IT industry body Nasscom today said any discrimination in giving access to Internet amounts to violation of freedom of speech and expression. Also Read - 11th India Game Developers Conference scheduled for November 22Also Read - Internet groups claim that telecom operators are blocking Reddit and Telegram in India
“Any restrictions placed on access to platforms of data are tantamount to a restriction of freedom of expression because my freedom of expression includes my freedom to be heard. You can say something and as long as no body heard you is not freedom of speech,” Nasscom President R Chandrashekhar told reporters. Also Read - Indian telecom companies including Reliance Jio blocking websites including Soundcloud, Telegram
He added net neutrality creates an open field that facilitates innovation, adoption and inclusion and along with this the proliferation of affordable telecom infrastructure is also a must. TRAI has said that telecom operators earn an average of 50 paise from a minute on long phone calls but from calls made using Internet they earn an average 4 paise a minute which is going to dip further.
Chandrashekhar saw no contradiction between the twin objectives of growth of innovative application ecosystem and telecom infrastructure.
“The solution lies in aligning revenue growth with the data consumption so that as more OTTs, more applications come up and more data is consumed then the revenue growth and growth of telecom infrastructure will enable more people to access it,” he said.
He made it clear that Nasscom is against all platforms that discriminate access to Internet mainly on basis of payments including zero rating plans.
‘Airtel Zero’ remains at the heart of the whole issue, which is a zero rating platform. Similar plans are offered by telecom companies in the US as well where net neutrality rules are already in place. He was of the view that over-the-top (OTT) players do not need licensing regime as they already fall under the ambit of IT Act.
“If applications will be brought under licensing regime, India will not have access to innovative applications and people have no reason to subscribe to Internet packs and data revenue of telecom operators will also suffer,” Nasscom Internet Council Chairman Sanjeev Bhikchandani said.
Among other suggestions, Nasscom recommended that there should be “no double dipping by telecom service providers — charging of data from both consumers and application/platform providers.”
Chandrashekhar said that “charging of the same data from both end consumer as well as platform provider is something that is not desirable.” “It is important to recognize that unfettered user right of making an informed choice in deciding access to content is the bedrock of net neutrality.”
Talking about security concerns raised by TRAI from mobile apps, he said, “We believe that security restrictions may be required but only to the extent of ensuring that services being provided by telecom operators are reliable and for any lawful demand that security agencies have.”
Nasscom suggested that prioritization of emergency services, which are expected to be delivered through internet in future, should be “as prescribed by the regulator accompanied by public declaration and without price discrimination.”
Chandrashekhar said there has been disruption in all the sectors but it does not mean that restrain should be imposed on disruptive technologies be it education, healthcare, financial inclusion or infrastructure.
“There should be no roadblock to the rapid adoption of ICT and innovation. Adoption of ICT has to be combined with innovation. Therefore Net neutrality becomes critical in preserving innovation,” he added.