Net Neutrality in India: Government receives over 50,000 comments on mygov.in forum

Stakeholders awaiting the government's guidelines on net neutrality may have to wait longer as some more time has now been given to the people and institutions to give their opinion on the recommendations of an official panel on this subject.


Update: There has been a surge in public response, pushing the number of comments on the telecom department panel's net neutrality recommendations to over 50,000, asking for free and equal access to the Web, according to The Economic Times. The responses to the report on the mygov.in portal were 52,172 and increasing by the minute.

Over the past couple of months, there have been heated debates around net neutrality in India. From online campaigns, mainstream media and social media, every possible communication mechanism has been flooded with the call to have a free internet. Free as in 'freedom', not free beer.

Stakeholders have been awaiting the government's guidelines on net neutrality. Considering the overwhelming interest on part of citizen representatives, advocates and activists, everyone may have to wait longer as deadline to give their opinion on the recommendations of an official panel on this subject has now been extended.

According to an official communique on the website of the Ministry of Communications, "Last date for submission of suggestions and comments on report of committee on net neutrality through the discussion forum under www.MyGov.in has been extended till August 20."

The report, submitted by a panel headed by technocrat A.K. Bhargava, was made public on July 16, and said it favoured, among a host of other matters, an end to the free-call regime over the Internet. This had evoked strong resentment among the netizens.

Still an evolving concept, net neutrality calls upon government, Internet service providers and other stakeholders to treat all voice and data services on the Internet equally, and not levy differential tariffs for usage, content, platform, sites, application or mode of communication.

Reacting to the protests over the panel recommendations, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told parliament soon after that these were only suggestions and not the final view. "It is neither the final report, nor has the government taken any final view," he said.

"Based on the committee report, comments and suggestions received and recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the government will take a considered decision on various aspects of net neutrality, in the best interest of the country."

 Net Neutrality in India: Government receives over 50,000 comments on mygov.in forum

In a set of recommendations that could have ended the free regime for domestic calls made through Internet messenger services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype, the official panel has suggested that they be treated like regular telecom service providers for tariff and regulation. But it wanted messaging free of tariff.

The deadline for submitting suggestions on the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) draft report on the issue of net neutrality is was earlier August 15.

These responses will be considered by the government to take a decision on the net neutrality issue along with TRAI’s suggestions following the consultation process. But unlike the older method where you had to send an email to TRAI, the new way to register your responses is through MyGov.in.

The DoT panel report had created a furore. The panel report earned sharp criticism from large section in the country as it proposed regulation of domestic calls made using Internet-based calling or VoIP applications such as Skype, Whatsapp and Viber, and put them on par with phone call services offered by telecom operators. At present, consumers can make a minute VoIP calls at almost negligible price compared to traditional calls.

The panel also opposed projects like Facebook’s Internet.org, which allows access to certain websites without mobile data charges, while suggesting that similar plans such as Airtel Zero be allowed with prior clearance from TRAI.

Mumbai based comedy collective All India Bakchod has also released a video around this issue, asking Indians to go ahead and register their responses to keep internet free from any sort of regulation.

Click here, to how it all started and what triggered the net neutrality issue.

With inputs from IANS

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