net neutrality: Net Neutrality battle a ‘hard fought’ one; important factor behind vibrant startup ecosystem: MoS IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar


The principle of net neutrality played an important role in making India a leading innovation economy with a vibrant startup ecosystem, and the battle to secure it was hard fought, minister of state for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said.

He added that India was one of the first countries to ensure net neutrality and push back against telecom companies seeking to be ‘gatekeepers of the internet’.

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TRAI had enshrined the principle of equal access to all lawful online content and equal opportunity to all online players in the rules back in 2018.

Adopting the principle was an important factor in India becoming a ‘world-leading innovation economy with this vibrant global standard startup eco-system’, Chandrasekhar said.

“Net Neutrality in India was a hard fought battle for those who remember – which started during UPA govt and peaked in 2015/2016. I led an effort where over 5 lac Indians wrote to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) opposing efforts of some Telcos to cabelize the Internet & double dip/charge,” the minister said in a tweet.

Earlier this week, around 128 startup founders signed a letter to the government to ensure net neutrality after telecom service providers Airtel, Jio and Vi asked the telecom regulator to allow them to charge over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Whatsapp, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. a “network usage fee” for the heavy traffic they bring.

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“Any move towards overregulation of internet services or Over-The-Top (OTT) services, may have discriminatory consequences,” the letter said, adding this would harm the startup ecosystem of the country, who unlike large multinationals may not be able to meet such obligations.The letter was signed by the likes of Zerodha founder Nithin Kamath, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, PhonePe’s Sameer Nigam, Bharat Matrimony’s Murugavel Janakiraman, Razorpay’s Harshil Mathur as well as and Practo’s Shashank ND Singh. It was addressed to PD Vaghela, chairman of TRAI and Akhilesh Kumar Trivedi, advisor (Networks, Spectrum and Licensing), TRAI.

ET reported on September 18 that the government was likely to retain its stance favouring net neutrality despite the telecom companies’ demands to revise the rules. It may also ask service layer apps such as Netflix and Prime to work together to find a solution such that average users’ connectivity is not impacted, an official had said.

“As far as we are concerned, we are absolutely sure that the principle behind Net Neutrality, which is that the pipe through which the connectivity flows cannot not give differential treatment to different users or apps and restrict the flow to others,” another official had said.

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