There was a discussion on Net Neutrality in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, initiated by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien. The Minister of Communication & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad opened the discussion and here are some of the points that emerged from the debate.

Who Participated?

  • Derek O’Brien, Trinamool Congress
  • Ashok Ganguly, Nominated MP
  • Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, DMK
  • Ritabrata Banerjee, Communist Party of India (Marxist)
  • Vivek Gupta, Trinamool Congress
  • Tarun Vijay, BJP
  • NV Rajeev Gowda, Indian National Congress
  • Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Nominated MP
  • Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu, Indian National Congress
  • A.U. Singh Deo, Biju Janata Dal
  • Ravi Prakash Verma, Samajwadi Party
  • Shantaram Naik, Indian National Congress
  • Anil Desai, Shiv Sena
  • A Navaneethakrishnan, AIADMK
  • K.T.S. Tulsi, Nominated MP
  • D. Raja, Communist Party of India

Questions they asked

Derek O'Brien

Derek O’Brien

Derek O’Brien

– Why has TRAI compromised the privacy of 10 lakh people who responded to the consultation paper by making their emails ids public?

– Is the government considering amending the IT Act? Is this government looking to bring the Internet under a License Raj?

– Asked for assurance that TRAI will not take action on Net Neutrality without consulting the Parliament.

Kanimozhi Karunanidhi

– What are the steps being taken to address the concerns raised by small websites that they would not be able to compete with the powerful websites who are joining hands with the Internet.org’s service providers?

– Is the government looking to make access to Internet a civic right?

– Requested to ensure that the discussions on Net Neutrality should be on government sites for free.

Ritabrata Banerjee

– Asked the government to look into telecom companies looking break Net Neutrality as they charge consumers access and then Internet companies

Vivek Gupta

– Asked how the government is going to give a level playing field to startups and small businesses to compete with Internet giants globally.

– As telecom companies share revenue with the government, how will the government balance out the potential increase in revenue by breaking Net neutrality and how will it protect freedom of expression?

– Asked for an inquiry to see who wants to violate Net Neutrality.

N.V. Rajeev Gowda

– Asked how the government will ensure that the independence of the TRAI will be maintained.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

– Asked for explicit legislation for Net Neutrality and protecting consumer interest.

– Asked for a review of the TRAI and the TRAI Act specifically with sections which deal with consumer protection and consumer interest.

– Highlighted the TRAI chairman’s comment on corporate rivalry which led to issues on Net Neutrality and asked the minister to direct TRAI to disclose evidence for the same.

– Asked for assurances from the government that consumers cannot be the guarantor for business models of telecom companies in the light of technological disruptions.

Anand Bhaskar Rapolu

Shantaram Naik

Shantaram Naik

– Asked what measures the government is taking to ensure a safe Internet.

Shantaram Naik

– Will the government enact a legislation on net neutrality as many countries so far have opted not to have  any legislation?

-What is the  rationale of those countries who have opted not to have a law in the matter?

– Has the government contacted any of these countries or governments to know their mind on the subject?

Anil Desai

– Asked for a timeline for the legislation on Net Neutrality.

D. Raja

– Ask  whether government will evolve a comprehensive policy on net neutrality.

– Whether the government will ban certain corporate companies which are against the spirit of net neutrality. If not why?

Quotable Quotes

 ” I have repeatedly raised in this house the need to review the independent regulator. What is the minister going to do in the face of this terrible behaviour and conduct of the TRAI in this consultation? Will he do a comprehensive review of the TRAI, the TRAI Act?” –  Rajeev Chandrasekhar

“Why should an Aircel or Vodafone be able to choose whether I use Google, or Bing or any other search engine. Why should I be forced to make a choice between Skype or Viber. Sir, my understanding of Net Neutrality tells me that if the change in regulation goes through, telcos will go and tie-up with certain applications in exchange for a price and provide free access only to those applications. ” – A.U. Singh Deo

“But to whatever extent, we can through legislative process at least protect the privacy and integrity of data that is going to be most critical for the growth of the sector and I think since India is an IT superpower, therefore we must take the lead  in evolving a proper legislation to regulate the rights of the consumers.” – KTS Tulsi

“What the telecom companies are asking is to be paid twice. The users will pay once and they will also want the Internet companies to pay them more money. I will ask the government that this needs to be looked upon. ” – Ritabrata Banerjee

“The tone of the consultation paper, if anyone has read in this house, it sounds like a consultation paper dictated by a telecom major. Now I don’t want to guess which telecom major but it sounded like that. The consultation paper of TRAI is blatantly in favour not of the consumer, you’ve given us the thing about the youth of the country etc etc, but its not in the favour of the youth or the internet user, its in favour of TRAI, it’s in favour of telecom” – Derek O’Brien

“Sir, telecom operators have been licensed to carry traffic, it does not matter whether that traffic is a film, a song or a voice or even digital data. Essentially they have been paid for the platform access and they should not slow down these bits and bytes through subtle methods as discriminatory access.” – NV Rajeev Gowda

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Assurances given by the minister

“Government stands for ensuring non discriminatory access to Internet for all the citizens of the country, and current debate on net neutrality should be seen from this perspective, while resolving the issue harmoniously and consistent with constitutional structure.”

The minister also stated that deliberate blocking and slowing down or speeding up of Internet content should not be allowed and that customers should have access to all lawful content on the Internet. However, he added that there would be instances for traffic management, national security, intergrity of network and investment in infrastructure where Net Neutrality would require regulation.

The minister also said that even on matters of tariff and quality of service regulation, the government has sufficient power under the TRAI Act to invoke its national policy objectives to overturn TRAI.

Deadlines

The government has formed a committee with key players, telecom companies, internet service proviers, civil society and consumer groups with a mandate to recommend overall policy on Net Neutrality and the Department of Telecommunications is expected to submit its report by the end of the month.

Our take

Heartening to hear MPs support Net Neutrality, but not many addressed the nuances of Net Neutrality, restricting their statements to blocking and throttling. No specific statement on Zero Rating.