:Note: This Pause & Reflect article by Kapil Sibal first appeared in Business Today.
Net neutrality, as commonly understood and explained, is the freedom to search and surf anything you want online freely, visit any website of your choice, and use and service you find useful.
Your ISP has no say in the matter, and cannot discriminate between your chosen sites, services, by either charging you differential rates, or by controlling your bandwidth.
My natural instinct as an internet user and as a lawyer tells me Net Neutrality is non-negotiable and we have to fight for it.
Anyone wearing a political hat would be fuzzy on the topic, and pass the decision-buck to others, like the present government and ministers are doing.
So why not for a moment, pause and reflect on net neutrality from a social development and economic growth perspective?
Digital India has been on the Government’s agenda for years now, and the proliferation of telecom and internet services has been on overdrive since the liberalisation of this sector under UPA-I.
Prime Minister Modi flaunts this initiative as a game changer and encourages not just the people, but also more departments to embrace technology that rides on the internet.
So when we speak of equity in access to information, and of equal opportunity to provide consumer services in our economy, is there any place for preferential bandwidth and zero rated data?
No. And Yes.
To read some excerpts from the article, please scroll down.
The question for us to pause and reflect is: how does the Government spread basic information and provide governance services to the common man, if the government isn’t paying for it and the common man doesn’t have money to pay for it?
If Digital India has to pay dividends in the long run, who will foot the bill in the short term?
But now that it has knowingly and gleefully extracted its pound of auction flesh as “realities of market forces and pricing”, the Government is faced with the challenge of accepting products and services born out of “market and economic realities”.
Now as a nation we constantly struggle to be fair to both the rich and the poor, and to balance the needs of corporate entities as well as individual citizens. We have to be sensitive to both, and provide encouragement to both, because economics aside, commonsense tells us each needs the other to grow.
Dear Shri Narendra Modi and the BJP Government,
How about defining and allowing internet packs that contain both commercial and social offerings?
How about we brand them Digital India Packs that contain 30% commercial data, 30% news data, and 40% socially and locally relevant and useful data…