New Delhi : Congress MP Shashi Throor, one of the first Indian politicians to take to Twitter, on Friday underlined the need of net neutrality, citing the needs of fostering innovation and customer choice.
The former union minister said that although telecom companies’ argument that they have invested a lot in buying the spectrum and building the infrastructure is not without merit, but equal access to the internet can’t be compromised for two basic reasons.
“One of the primary reasons is that if a data provider enters into a tie-up with a giant like Facebook to provide free access to it and to charge money from its rivals – most of them very small players – for the same, it’s like killing entrepreneurship and innovation,” Tharoor said.
“Such an approach ought to be restricted on the ground that this is stifling innovation,” he emphasised while delivering presidential address at a debate on net neutrality organised by O.P. Jindal Global University here.
Net neutrality means that governments and Internet service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally – therefore, not charging users, content, platform, site, application or mode of communication differentially.
The net neutrality principle came into focus in India following mobile operator Airtel’s launch of an open marketing platform ‘Airtel Zero’, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s consultation paper on whether telecom firms could be allowed to charge different rates for different uses of Internet data such as e-mail, browsing and for use of apps like Whatsapp, Viber and Skype.
The second clinching argument in support of net neutrality, said Tharoor, is that once the telecom companies have charged for the data, they have no right to tell the user where to use that data.
“You charge for the data you are providing. But it’s my choice where to use that data,” he said.
Tharoor also sought to justify cheaper spectrum prices for the telecom operators by saying that it would curtail the call rates in turn.
“The government can make it more palatable for the telecom companies perhaps by offering them more spectrum at a modest price. That would cover their cost,” he added.
The UPA government had been in the eye of a storm for allegedly selling the spectrum cheaply and favouring a few telecom players over others.
Earlier, O.P. Jindal University’s vice chancellor C. Rajkumar said that there has been more heat than light in the public discourse over net neutrality though there should be more informed opinions in the fray.