New Delhi: Coming out strongly in favour of 'net neutrality', the Congress on Tuesday demanded that the government issue immediate policy directions to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to scrap the controversial consultation paper in the matter and warned of protests if freedom of choice of Internet users was compromised.
Demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government unequivocally take a stand in favour of ‘net neutrality', Congress spokesman Ajay Maken said the committee set up by the Telecom Ministry on the issue be disbanded.
“What is most unfortunate is the fact that government, Telecom Ministry and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are willing abettors in this attempt to put roadblocks in the onward march of a digitally empowered India,” Mr. Maken told reporters here.
Mr. Maken wondered as to what is the need for a committee when the Centre has powers under Section 25 of the TRAI Act to issue any direction to the authority in public interest.
Underlining the need for urgent action in the matter, he said India is home to 24.31 crore Internet users, of which 17.30 crore are mobile Internet users.
Noting that India is one of the best networked countries of the world, he said the youth of the country are among the most tech savvy with a total of 11.20 crore Facebook users, 7 crore WhatsApp users and 2.2 crore using Twitter by end of last year.
“This phenomenal technological revolution in India is leading to an unholy greed to profiteer by Telecom Service Providers/Internet Service Providers by throttling the neutrality of the Internet and attempting to discriminate between apps and services with the sole agenda to make more money,” he said.
Congress strongly deprecate and reject attempts towards licensing or fixation of discriminatory pricing of Internet applications and web services, he said.
Mr. Maken said while Prime Minister Modi uses every social media platform to convey his political message of ‘digital India', Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad first makes a generic statement and then constitutes a committee to study the issue of ‘net neutrality' by May, 2015.
“Reality is that Modi Government, Telecom Ministry and TRAI choose to speak in different voices, at different times and to different constituencies with a view to hoodwink their real motive of helping the Telecom Service Providers/Internet Service Providers,” he alleged.
He accused the government of following a latent policy of ‘3S' i.e. ‘Stifle, Subjugate and Stymie' the freedom of thought and expression on the Internet by putting aside public interest in the issue.
He warned of street protests by the party if the government failed to heed to its demand.
On a question, Mr. Maken did not rule out the party going to court in the matter. “Future course of action, we will let you know,” he said.