Rahul Backs ‘Net Neutrality’, Slams Modi’s ‘Digital India’


New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his ‘Digital India’ scheme cannot become a euphemism for an ‘internet controlled by large remote corporations’.

Asserting that the Congress has always stood for ‘freedom of the internet’ and ‘net neutrality’, Gandhi said in a statement the grand old party believed that Internet Service Providers (ISPs)/Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) and the government should treat all data on the internet equally.

“The Congress Party’s and my belief is shaped by our faith that internet users should be free to connect to any website or service that they want, enabling a level playing field on the ‘world wide web’. We recognize the danger of privileging a private platform over a public Internet introducing a new digital divide,” he said.

Stating that NASSCOM has asked for ‘net neutrality’ and over 500 start-up entrepreneurs and the youth in India have been demanding for it, Gandhi accused the government of delaying the framing of a clear-cut policy under the pretext of repeated discussions.

“The BJP government quietly looked the other way when Telecom companies introduced price differential through zero rating plans and attempts to charge for OTT (Over The Top) services. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued consultation papers on the issue twice over, covering similar questions for consumers to answer on Net Neutrality, free basics and data price differentiation.” Gandhi said.

The Congress vice-president expressed hope to see a TRAI report and the government’s commitment in favour of an open internet in its entirety, where there is no ambiguity with regard to difference in pricing. Lauding the free internet and net neutrality activists, who are engaged in the movement to disseminate useful and relevant information to the public despite ‘misleading marketing gimmicks’, Gandhi said that he saluted their ‘indomitable spirit’.

Reminding the Prime Minister that ‘Digital India’ cannot become a euphemism for an internet controlled by large remote corporations, Gandhi said that ‘Digital India’ should mean internet connectivity as a public utility, open ended and generative.

“With Digital India, people would get more access to the Internet – the whole internet – and not primarily a filter on the web. This is imperative for India to grow in 21st Century. I sincerely hope that TRAI report and Modi government will adhere to this bounden need espoused by millions of Indians,” he said.

The Congress vice-president’s fresh salvo on the Prime Minister comes right before the latter’s 16 edition of ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme, which is set to be aired today