Report on net neutrality to be out soon: Here's a look at the timeline to know how it all started

Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday confirmed that the government will soon come out with its report on the issue of net neutrality. He also said the telecom department is waiting for the report from sectoral regulator TRAI.


Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday confirmed that the government will soon come out with its report on the issue of net neutrality. He also said the telecom department is waiting for the report from sectoral regulator TRAI.

"Report of net neutrality will be out very soon but we are waiting for TRAI report on the issue," telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters.

The telecom department, which had set up a panel to look into the net neutrality issue, submitted its report to Prasad earlier this month.

Net neutrality implies equal treatment be accorded to all internet traffic and no priority should be given to any person or entity or company based on payment, which is seen as discriminatory. Apart from the six-member committee appointed in January this year by DoT, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had also invited stakeholders comments on issues such as net neutrality and regulation of OTT services like WhatsApp and Skype.

The regulatory received over 10 lakh comments. In the meantime tenur of the then TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar ended and the new head is yet to be appointed. "Announcement (of new TRAI Chairman) will be made very soon," Prasad said.

In the past couple of months, a lot has been said and written about net neutrality in India. It was Airtel who created quite a stir with its new Zero marketing platform. However, massive outrage forced its partner Flipkart to walk out of Airtel Zero. Soon companies like Cleartrip and NDTV walked out of Facebook’s Internet.org, a platform almost similar to Airtel Zero.

Here's a timeline of events:

March 27, 2015

TRAI published the 117-page document known as ‘Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services’. This consultation paper talks about net neutrality in India and how it changes the way we consume data. TRAI is seeking public views on it and the deadline for comments is April 24.

April 6, 2015

Airtel launched a new marketing platform, Airtel Zero, allowing customers to access apps of participating app developers at zero data charges. It instantly faced criticism from netizens for violating net neutrality.

April 9, 2015

While Flipkart was already rumoured to be in talks with Airtel as a participating app for its Zero platform, Sachin Bansal’s tweet defending the program added further fuel to the fire.  The tweet didn’t go down well with several net neutrality supporters who decided todownvote the Flipkart app on Android to ‘one star’ rating.

April 11, 2015

While tech enthusiasts and netizens were already in support of net neutrality, it was the AIB video that helped reach out further to the masses. AIB created a nine-minute long ‘Save the Internet’ video on net neutrality, which states that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform or application.

April 13, 2015

More than one lakh emails were sent to TRAI in support of net neutrality. The campaign (www.savetheinternet.in) asking the public to send submissions to the TRAI that seeks views by April 24 started picking pace. This site already has ready answers for all the 20 questions that TRAI has put forth. All you need to to is copy the QnA in your mail client and send a response to TRAI. You can also edit some answers.

April 14, 2015

Public outrage forces Flipkart to pull out of Airtel Zero partnership. The company tweets from its official handle stating it strongly believes in the concept of net neutrality and the company exists because of the Internet.

A panel of experts was reported to look into the net neutrality issue.

April 15, 2015

Flipkart is soon followed by Cleartrip withdrawing from Internet.org. It was also followed by others like NDTV, and some properties by Times Group. By this time, Facebook’s Internet.org started hitting headlines for violating the principles of net neutrality. Earlier in February, Facebook teamed up with Reliance Communications to bring Internet.org in India. Just like Airtel Zero, Facebook’s Internet.org too violates net neutrality.

It was this day, that reports about Trai chief’s comments about corporate war between a telco and a media house further sparked the debate.

April 16, 2015

As the debate over net neutrality in India got fierce, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg spoke in defense of Internet.org and how it is important and can co-exist with net neutrality.

April 18, 2015

There were reports about Bharti Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal sending mails to several CEO/CXOs and influencers explaining how its zero-rating plan does not violate the principle of net neutrality.

April 19, 2015

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) reaffirmed its support for ‘net neutrality’, but also made a strong pitch for ‘net equality’ that will enable access to Internet for a billion Indians as part of the governments digital India vision.

April 20, 2015

Over 9 lakh emails have been sent to TRAI in support of net neutrality.

April 22

Rahul Gandhi, who moved an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha said one million people are fighting for net neutrality and the govt is trying to carve out the net and hand it over to the corporates. Within moments of the speech, #RGforNetNeutrality started trending on Twitter.

In response, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Our PM has said that everyone should have access to the internet.” Adding that the PM is the most respected person on social media in India, Prasad assured that the government stands for net neutrality and will ensure a non-discriminatory internet is available.

April 24

Trai received over a million responses in support of net neutrality.

https://twitter.com/neutrality_in/status/591137599927922688

Protesting against the rules which threaten to redefine the Internet, a website called www.savetheinternet.in had been set up where anyone could send a mail directly to TRAI, expressing their reluctance and discomfort about how telecom carriers are snatching away free Internet from them. It received an overwhelming response of more than 11 lakh petitions.

May 2015

Amidst the backlash in India, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg decided to loosen the grip on its free Internet service in India. This doesn’t mean, Internet.org is now booted out of India, but it simply becomes an ‘open’ platform for all.

Facebook then came up with an ‘open’ Internet.org platform for all developers in India received flak for bringing the same old rules in a new package. It was nothing but old wine packaged in a new bottle.

In the first week of May, from internal mails of a software MNC and foreign junket proposal to a private wedding album, telecom regulator Trai has made everything public in the name of 10 lakh comments it got on draft net neutrality proposals.

On the other side, there were reports about how TRAI isn’t really buying Facebook’s Internet.org or Airtel Zero programs and DoT is also batting for net neutrality, and the telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had come forth to reveal that government stands for free and open Internet.

While everyone awaits for the government's decision, the volunteer group, SavetheInternet, is requesting that in the absence of a recommendation from TRAI and any decision from the government, telecom companies should be restricted from rolling out any plans and services that violate Net Neutrality.

With inputs from PTI

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