Yesterday, India signalled its determination to ensure “non discriminatory access to [the] Internet for all the citizens of the country”.
Addressing India’s upper house of Parliament, Minister of Communication & Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that government will take decisive action to uphold … “the fundamental principles and concept of Net Neutrality. That is, keep the Internet available & accessible to all without discrimination.”
We’d like to commend the Indian government for acting so swiftly to address citizens concerns. It’s clear that net neutrality matters to Indians — a consultation by the regulator which closed a little over a week ago drew over a million responses, largely owing to the sterling campaigning and awareness raising from the team at Savetheinternet.in. In response, the Government has already formed a committee that is consulting with public, private and civil society players. We submit that even more consultation is needed. Remember, 85% of Indians do not yet have access to the Internet, and their voices will not have been heard through the TRAI consultation process, which relied on an online submission.
In his speech, Mr Prasad cited our 2014 Web Index research finding that 74% of Web Index countries either lack clear and effective net neutrality rules, and/or show evidence that certain Internet content, applications or services are being unfairly prioritised. It is clear that such clear and effective rules are now urgently needed — only three countries that have not passed net neutrality laws or regulations can claim to see no traffic discrimination. (See our interactive visualisation below.)
What happens in India matters — with more than a billion present or potential future Web users and creators affected by the policies the country chooses to pursue, the impacts will reverberate around the globe. We urge India’s leaders to cement progress by seizing the moment and passing strong net neutrality laws that preserve the Internet as it should be — a neutral, free and open platform for collaboration, innovation and progress. By so doing, India will unlock massive socio-economic benefits for all of her citizens and show leadership to countries grappling with the same challenges.
As we wrote in our Web Index report:
“It is clear as that as the commercial and political value of the Web becomes ever greater, different vested interests will try harder to shape or even control the delivery of content to users. In response, governments need to recognise that the Internet is an essential part of economic and social infrastructure — “as basic to innovation, economic growth, social communication, and … competitiveness as electricity [is],”in the words of Susan Crawford. Hence, it needs to be regulated like other public utilities to ensure services are provided on a fair, transparent and nondiscriminatory basis.”
We’ve already provided oral and written evidence to the Government’s committee, and made a submission to the TRAI consultation. Now, we stand ready and willing to continue to help in any way possible, in line with our mission to establish the open Web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely.