By Krishna Mukherjee
NEW DELHI: The raging debate on net neutrality has once again hit the fore, with the DoT panel submitting its report on the subject and drawing flak for allegedly lobbying with the telcos and hurting the ‘Digital India’ initiative of the government.
The crux of the whole debate lies in regulating the domestic Internet-based calls, which industry body Nasscom believes will lead to breach of privacy and will be tough to monitor compliance.
Not only this, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an NGO and co-petitioner in 2G spectrum case before Supreme Court, has said that the report is anti-consumer and bad for the business of Digital India.
“The recommendation will amount to breach of privacy because one, without doing deep packet inspection, you will not be able to distinguish the content and two, you will not be able to find if it is voice or non-voice,” R Chandrashekhar, President, Nasscom and former telecom secretary said.
He also blamed the panel for protecting the interest of the telcos and said: “The objective should be to have rationale charging methodology which hastens the process of going to Digital India.”
Echoing similar views, Nikhil Pahwa, a volunteer of savetheinternet.com, was quoted as saying to a publication that “The DoT committee has taken a middle path, it has deviated from the main objective of coming out with a regulation for saving the Net Neutrality to saving telecom companies’ (telcos) revenues.
Ankit Jain, Founder and CEO, MyOperator, says: “This is a partial neutrality for the internet. Licensing for Skype, WhatsApp and other such applications is not the solution….We have to wait and watch how consumers would react to domestic calling via app. But this will curb the growth of Digital India.”
“Any restrictions on such (OTT) services will slow the pace of innovation and stifle the pace of solving consumer’s problems – both negative for country’s development and digital agenda. Telcos have a real problem of financial viability of their business model(s) and that must be addressed without hurting other stakeholders in the ecosystem,” adds Rohit Raghav, Co-founder, Phone warrior.
However, the other side of the coin says a different story. Experts believe that the report looks healthy for the overall growth of the industry and the government panel has approached a middle-path to deal with the situation.
“From the users perspective, it will ensure access to all apps and content in an unbiased way, irrespective of the source. From the county perspective when today we are talking about Digital India etc, many of the initiatives and campaigns to address the Digital divide will be futile without Net Neutrality,” according to Arun Gupta , CEO and Founder, MoMagic Technologies.
Nitin Gupta, CEO, PayU India, says: “With the revamped legal framework and core principal of net neutrality intact, we believe there will be no loophole for consumer rights violations when it comes to optimum internet usage. Also, it ensures level playing field for all people … big or small …and that has been the true technology spirit of startup ecosystem .. and because of this spirit companies like Google and Facebook and others started as small start-ups and are giants today.
Although, the wait is on now for the final report on net neutrality, With Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad taking cognizance of the current situation and assuring that the structured report will come out with a balanced approach. Fingers are crossed that the final report comes out with a win-win situation for telcos as well as the start-ups.
(With inputs from Sanjeeb Kumar Sahoo)