New Delhi,Amrita Madhukalya: Communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday, reiterated his stand on the issue of Net Neutrality in the Rajya Sabha, asserting that the government was committed to a non-discriminatory Internet. "The government agrees with the viewpoint that deliberate blocking, slowing down, or speeding up of lawful content on the Internet should not be allowed," he said in a statement in reply to TMC MP Derek O'Brien calling the House's attention on the issue of safeguarding Net Neutrality.
Prasad said that while the ministry does not "intend to interfere or impugn" on the functioning of TRAI, it will do "whatever is required to safeguard the interests" of the people, while fielding concerns of compromising the privacy of a million users.
"My specific question to the Minister is as to why he has compromised the privacy of these ten lakh individuals. It is a very serious issue," asked O'Brien. To which, the minister replied: "The architecture of TRAI is such that it needs to make consultation papers public. But whether it should have screened details should be looked into. I will take note of the matter."
Several MPs including BJP MP Tarun Vijay, Congress MP Rajeev Gowda, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Ashok S Ganguly, CPI MP D Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi, had comments and suggestions to make. Many of them accused the TRAI of blatantly favouring telecom companies, and wondered whether the government will think of altering the TRAI Act, and if there will be a law to ensure net neutrality. Prasad said that the question of a law will be a question of consideration after TRAI completes its consultation paper. He added that the committee he had formed in January to look into the matter will submit its report on the matter by the end of May and only then will the ministry decide on the way forward.
O'Brien compared the internet with electricity, and said that just like electricity providers do not charge separately on different appliances, internet providers should also not be allowed to do so. Ashok S Ganguly drew attention to the European Union's battle against Google and its relevance to the Indian scenario, "because what it is forcing Google to do is to become net neutral and that will be followed very closely."
Bengaluru MP Rajeev Gowda spoke of a 69-year-old farmer from North Karnataka who had suggested chief minister Siddaramaiah to use Google Earth to map the co-ordinates of land and WhatsApp it to transmit pictures of crop damage. "That is just part of the wisdom coming from an earthy old man talking about the transformational potential of the internet," said Gowda, before ending his speech with a quote from Gene Roddenberry's cult space fiction series Star Trek. "Today, newer apps and technologies will emerge that will help, in the words of Star Trek, people to "boldly go where no man has ever gone before." We must not find any way to slow down this extraordinary unleashing of the power of human ingenuity.
Tarun Vijay said that the demand for "internet azaadi" is akin to Mahatma Gandhi's salt satyagraha, and asked "not to allow email to be converted into blackmail". "These telecom companies are Shylock (the scrupulous Jewish money-lender from William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice). They are sharks. Frauds happen," he said alleging that a telephone company charged him Rs.10,000 for using BlackBerry services, which he had not even seen.