NEW DELHI: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi trained his guns at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not framing a clear policy on net neutrality on the pretext of wider consultations and discussions.
With the issue of net neutrality being a hot topic among social media users, Rahul hoped to tap into an issue which concerned youth, who are the main consumers of platforms like Twitter and Facebook in India.
“The Congress Party’s and my belief is shaped by our faith that internet users should be free to connect to any website or service that they want, enabling a level playing field on the ‘world wide web’. We recognise the danger of privileging a private platform over a public Internet introducing a new digital divide,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday. Net neutrality is the state in which all websites on the internet are treated equally by internet service providers in terms of cost for access by a netizen. It is currently in the news after Facebook strongly pushed for its ‘Free Basics’ service which will provide free internet, but only for pre-selected websites.
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Modi’s pet initiative, Rahul said, “With Digital India, people would get more access to the Internet - the whole internet - and not primarily a filter on the web. This is imperative for India to grow in 21st Century”.
“I sincerely hope that TRAI report and Modi government will adhere to this bounden need espoused by millions of Indians,” he added. He hoped that ‘Digital India’ scheme does not become a euphemism for an “internet controlled by large remote corporations.
Rahul noted that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had issue consultation paper “twice over covering similar questions for consumers to answer on Net Neutrality, free basics and data price differentiation”.
He had special appreciation for the “indomitable spirit” of free internet and net neutrality activists who were creating awareness despite “misleading marketing gimmicks”.
He wanted government to realise that Internet is a powerful poverty alleviation tool, offering unbounded opportunities limited only by imagination, whether it is a farmer looking for information on monsoon preparedness, artisans connecting with buyers in a market place or a college student from rural India enrolling for an online course.
“NASSCOM has asked for Net Neutrality, over 500 start-up entrepreneurs are pleading for it, young in India have been demanding it, yet we have a government, which under the pretext of repeated discussions, has been delaying framing a clear-cut policy on this”, Rahul said.