Telecom lobby group COAI yesterday claimed that 40 lakh mobile subscribers have supported its ‘campaign’ that calls for Internet-based communication services such as WhatsApp and Skype be subjected to similar norms that apply to mobile operators. Also Read - Coronavirus: Telecom operators urge DoT to offer free access to critical sites
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that the “support” has come through SMSes and voice calls made as part of this campaign over the past week and “the entire mobile number database of supporters is auditable on request by the appropriate agency”. This comes in the backdrop of a raging debate over ‘net neutrality’ and allegations that telecom operators are hurting this concept of free Internet access to all by giving preferential treatment to a select few service providers on their respective platforms. Last week, the COAI had launched a campaign with the slogan ‘Sabka Internet, Sabka Vikas’, seeking a level playing field with net-based services like Skype and WhatApp. Also Read - 5G in India: Operators may delay rollout by 5 years; Here is why
The industry body said if the telecom operators are not offered a level playing field with net-based services, then their businesses would be viable only by raising data prices by up to six times. Such high rates, they said, would become unaffordable for a large number of people, denying them access to the Internet. “The campaign championed the cause of customers choosing what they would like to access in the web space, benefiting from affordable Internet packages and with the same rules being applicable to services as well. “COAI started the outreach effort to ensure mobile customers have the freedom to benefit from the power of the Internet in the way they would wish to, including the choice of platform, device and technology,” COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said. Also Read - Trai recommendations on OTT issue likely by February-end: R S Sharma
The debate on ‘net neutrality’ was triggered in India by mobile operator Airtel introducing an open marketing platform ‘Airtel Zero’, and TRAI’s consultation paper on whether telecom firms can be allowed to charge different rates for different uses of Internet data like e-mail, Internet browsing and use of apps like Whatsapp, Viber and Skype.