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Govt vows to keep web access equitable

India's stand is important against the backdrop of US FCC's decision to roll back its net neutrality rules adopted in 2015

Kiran Rathee  |  New Delhi 

Ravi Shankar Prasad
(From left) IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the inauguration of the fifth edition of the Global Conference on Cyber Space in New Delhi (Photo: Sanjay Sharma)

At a time when the US’ has decided to replace the rules, the Indian government has vowed to keep cyberspace equal for everyone and not allow any firm to restrict people’s access to the web. Law and Information Technology Minister said on Thursday that a couple of years ago when Facebook wanted to offer free services through Free Basics, the Centre had flatly refused to grant permission as it violated the equitablity principle. “I was then handling the communications department, and this whole campaign was going on... I took a very firm stand,” Prasad said, while speaking at the Global Conference on Cyberspace Security here. ALSO READ: No place for dark forces in digital space: PM Modi Prasad said Facebook CEO met him a number of times with the idea of Free Basics, that everything would be free if people entered through Facebook’s gate, namely education, health, entertainment, etc. “I said India is a democracy and we don’t believe in one gate. We believe in multiple gates. Therefore, this gate-locking for India will not be accepted and I did not allow it.

This stems (from) our commitment that the must be accessible to all.” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said Trai was doing an industry-wide consultation on net neutrality, but the government had already made its stand clear a couple of years back. ALSO READ: India still vulnerable to cyberattacks: Experts Asked about the course of action on the subject, Prasad said, “The debate is going on, but you may recall my statement in Parliament. The right of access is not negotiable. Therefore, without going into the larger nuances of in India, we have taken a new position; the right of access is important.” India’s stand on the issue is important against the backdrop of US FCC’s decision to roll back its rules adopted in 2015, when Barack Obama was president. ALSO READ: Equipment identity register to keep duplicate SIMs in check US-based Facebook had introduced the programme in India in 2015 to offer free basic access to people in partnership with telecom operators. However, the programme was banned by the telecom regulator after activists termed it against the principles of equitable access. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, too, echoed the same sentiments, saying lowered the barriers of entry by preserving the as a fair and level-playing field, and helped businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive.

First Published: Fri, November 24 2017. 02:32 IST