Net Neutrality fight restarts – first shot fired by Telecom Watchdog

netneutralityThe fight over preserving net neutrality (the right to use data as and how a consumer wants) is restarting and the first shot has been fired by NGO Telecom Watchdog.

Echoing widespread sentiment, the NGO attacked the recommendations of an internal Department of Telecom Committee that said that calls between WhatsApp users and others should be controlled to protect the margins of telecom companies.

The NGO pointed out that, going by the report of the DoT committee on net neutrality, only text messages would be allowed on WhatsApp and other messengers.

“This means, for example, presently, while sending a message on WhatsApp, the users can attach files, pictures, movies, etc. But, the DoT committee says all these attachments would be barred. Only small messages would be allowed without attachments,” it said.

The Committee, in its report, said that allowing customers to make WhatsApp calls will result in lower profits for telecom companies. If telecom companies do not make substantial profits, they may not invest money in their business to expand their operations, and this will impact the future of India.

“The internet penetration is very low in the country. We cannot allow a two-year old kid to cross the road with fast moving traffic. It requires hand- holding till the kid grows.

“Similarly, internet is at a stage where it requires support to grow. If at this stage it is saddled with unwanted regulations, we will kill this industry, and it will be difficult to see “Digital India” rolling out.

“The youth of the country are extremely agitated with such recommendations and are considering it as high-handedness of the telecom ministry, which is just working for the protection of the operators,” the NGO said.

“Unlike subsidy support for solar power project being provided by this government, we are not demanding anything but requesting this government not to unnecessarily regulate the App industry in a manner which is anti-consumer, anti-growth, and anti- innovation. In view of the above, we request you to issue necessary direction to the minister concerned not to interfere in this prevailing system,” it added.

Telecom Watchdog sent the letter after the DoT made public a report that was submitted in May. The delay in the publication of the report was also questioned.

“The committee had submitted the report way back in May 2015 to the Hon’ble Minister for Communications & IT, which he had studied (in private) for a few weeks. He did not make his own observation on the recommendations and the same was sent to TRAI for reference for their study before they (TRAI) make any recommendations / regulations. This means, the Minister had endorsed the views of the committee. In our respectful submission, the Net-Neutrality Report of the DoT Committee is a Protectionist Policy for the Incumbent TSPs. This report is a template for protecting and preserving their traditional voice revenues, which incumbents have already milked optimally and continue to do so through insidious tariff hikes,” Telecom Watchdog said.

It is expected that the ‘Save the Internet‘ campaign and other similar groups will restart their protests and agitations soon, now that the Department of Telecom committee has favored putting controls over what consumers can do with Internet connectivity.
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