“I am ecstatic. I did not in my wildest dreams think the government would say No to Free Basics,” says Mahesh Murthy, co-founder, Seedfund. Murthy has been vocal about his support for Net Neutrality and how Free Basics proposed by Facebook will compromise the digital revolution in India.
Murthy, quite articulate on the issue, was falling short of words to describe what he felt about the government’s take on the issue. “I am speechless, as it was unexpected,” he says, as an explanation, adding, “I am a happy man, today. It is an awesome decision. This will encourage growth in the country,” he said.
Earlier, Murthy had written a critical piece on Facebook’s claims regarding FreeBasics which was rebutted by Facebook.
“The entire growth of the country is largely through the internet. If Facebook or Google decide to dictate what sites we can use, there will be no learning at all. What Mark Zuckerberg was proposing meant that an entrepreneur with a start-up would not be able to create his own website, because the telecom company would have to give him access."
Murthy termed the government’s refusal to accept Free Basics as the most progressive decision India has taken in recent times. “It is the intent and spirit that I congratulate,” he said of TRAI’s decision not to accept differential pricing and to rule in favour of Net Neutrality.
The regulation will be effective immediately and disallows any programs that allows discriminatory data tariffs. A penalty of up to Rs 50 lakh will be applicable for each day of violation of regulation.
Murthy was happy that TRAI did not play an advisory’s role and took on a regulatory role. Earlier Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Communication and Information Technology, had said that the government would be guided by TRAI and that it had right to review the decision.
Murthy is still skeptical. He wants to go through the fine print though.