Having failed so far to come up with a coherent policy on net neutrality, the Narendra Modi government must guard against allowing Digital India to become a surrogate for the interests of big corporations, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said on Sunday.
“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 said in a statement.
He said the BJP government quietly looked the other way when telecom companies introduced price differential through zero rating plans and attempted to charge for OTT (Over The Top) services.
Addressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi said: “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. With Digital India, people would get more access to Internet – the whole Internet – and not primarily a filter on the web,” he stressed.
The Congress leader said his party had always stood for freedom of the Internet and net neutrality, as it believed that “Internet Service Providers (ISPs)/Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) and government should treat all data on Internet equally”.
“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,” Gandhi said.
He noted that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had issued consultation papers on the issue twice over, covering similar questions for consumers to answer on net neutrality, free basics and data price differentiation.
Gandhi said he and his party recognised “the danger of privileging a private platform over a public internet, introducing a new digital divide”.
He added that like millions of Indians out there, he too was “earnestly hoping to see a TRAI report and Modi government’s commitment in favour of an open Internet in its entirety where there is no ambiguity in regard to difference in pricing or VOIP”.
Launched in July 2015, Digital India is an initiative of the Modi government to ensure that public services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity.