Govt committed to non-discriminatory internet access for all: Telecom Minister

Amid a debate on net neutrality, the government said it is committed towards providing equal internet access to all and will ensure non-discriminatory availability, Parliament was informed today.

“Government notes with assurance the growth of internet in India and wide platform it has offered for innovation and creativity. Government strives for non-discriminatory access to internet for all citizens of the country,” Communication and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

Net neutrality refers to non-discrimination of data packets by intermediate network of internet on the basis of content, application, service, device, sender or recipient address, among others, he added.

The Minister, however, said that there is divergence of views among countries on the extent of neutrality desired for internet Service Providers and regulatory measures undertaken to enforce them.

“Very few countries have opted for specific legislation in this regard,” Prasad said.

On a query, whether some telecom firms are using differential pricing to access certain content online, he said, tariffs are offered by ISPs taking into account several factors.

These factors include input costs, level of competition and other commercial considerations, he added.

“Presently, the service providers are offering internet packs, which allow the subscribers to use any content, applications, etc available on internet. In addition, some service providers are offering discounted special tariff packs for certain applications,” Prasad said.

The Minister also informed the house that telecom sector regulator Trai has released a consultation paper of the regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) services on which stakeholders have sent their comments by April 24 and the counter comments can be given till May 8.

Department of Telecom has also constituted a committee on Net neutrality in January this year and its terms of reference include to examine net neutrality and its public policy objective.

The committee will also examine the economic impact of net neutrality on the telecom sector that arises from existence of a regulated telecom services sector and unregulated content and applications sector, including OTT services.

It will also recommend the overall policy, regulatory and technical responses, Prasad said.




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