Net neutrality: A good move

India has decided to stick with Net neutrality. This should be welcomed by Internet users across the country, more so as the recommendations India has accepted for Net neutrality are among the strongest in the world. This concept, requiring service providers to treat all traffic equally and not charge differently on the basis of what the content is, is a great principle of equity that has served India’s 500 million-strong online community well. The government must have good reasons for making a few exceptions in mission-critical fields like remote surgery and autonomous cars. The equitable conditions mean service providers can’t throttle data speeds for any online service, and they would do so only at the risk of heavy fines.

India made some sacrifices to uphold the principles. It rejected proposals for “zero rating” platforms by Google and Facebook, with seemingly attractive offers to take connectivity into remote areas. Facebook would have given its “Free Basics” service at no cost to users whereas Airtel had a plan to charge more for Internet calls, that was also rightly rejected. The point is none of this would have come without conditions, or free of discriminatory practices.

The US scrapped Net neutrality last month amid opposition worldwide and within that country too. India’s stand comes in sharp contrast to US policies revised under the Trump administration, and prepared by Indian American Ajit Pai. Net neutrality was the basis of traffic on the Internet and there’s no need to deviate because service providers suggest they could contribute to infrastructure building if allowed freedom in data traffic management. India must spend on infrastructure, but it will be worth it to offer the same opportunity to as many of 1.34 billion Indians as possible.

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