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Nasscom joins growing Indian voice for net neutrality

23 April 2015

Coming out strongly in support of internet neutrality, India's information technology body Nasscom said any discrimination in giving access to internet amounts to violation of freedom of speech and expression.

In this, Nasscom echoes other IT industry bodies like COAI in supporting this vexed issue, where the boundaries remain unclear globally.

"Any restrictions placed on access to platforms of data are tantamount to a restriction of freedom of expression because my freedom of expression includes my freedom to be heard. You can say something and as long as no body heard you is not freedom of speech," Nasscom President R Chandrashekhar told reporters in New Delhi.

He added that net neutrality creates an open field that facilitates innovation, adoption and inclusion and along with this the proliferation of affordable telecom infrastructure is also a must.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has said that telecom operators earn an average of 50 paise a minute on long-distance phone calls, but from calls made through the internet they earn an average 4 paise a minute which is going to dip further.

Chandrashekhar saw no contradiction between the twin objectives of growth of innovative application ecosystem and telecom infrastructure.

"The solution lies in aligning revenue growth with the data consumption so that as more OTTs, more applications come up and more data is consumed then the revenue growth and growth of telecom infrastructure will enable more people to access it," he said.

He made it clear that Nasscom is against all platforms that discriminate access to internet mainly on basis of payments including zero rating plans.

'Airtel Zero' remains at the heart of the whole issue, which is a zero rating platform. Similar plans are offered by telecom companies in the US as well where Net Neutrality rules are already in place.

He was of the view that over-the-top (OTT) players do not need licensing regime as they already fall under the ambit of the IT Act.

"If applications will be brought under licensing regime, India will not have access to innovative applications and people have no reason to subscribe to internet packs and data revenue of telecom operators will also suffer," Nasscom Internet Council Chairman Sanjeev Bhikchandani said.

Among other suggestions, Nasscom recommended that there should be "no double dipping by telecom service providers -- charging of data from both consumers and application/platform providers".

''Charging of the same data from both the end consumer as well as the platform provider is something that is not desirable," he said on the vexed issue.

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