Even as the U.S. telecom regulator voted to get rid of net neutrality, its Indian counterpart reiterated its commitment to an open and free internet by calling it “a naturally correct principle” and the “right way” forward for the country. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an open house discussion on ‘Unsolicited Commercial Communication’, the chairperson of the Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI), R. S. Sharma, said that the agency will continue with its support for net neutrality even in the face of increased lobbying from big telecom. According to him, “in (the) Indian context, this is the right way … because a lot is riding on the internet and therefore it is important that it is kept as an open platform”.
To emphasize his support for net neutrality, Sharma likened ISPs to toll operators on highways, saying that just like a driver is free to take any exit on a highway without any diktat or interference from the toll operator, internet users should also not be subjected to any form of censorship by their internet service providers. According to him, “His (toll operator’s) concern is only to charge toll from me. And thereafter I am free to go anywhere I want to go. Similarly, net neutrality says you charge for the data and thereafter on the internet what I visit, what site I access, is my choice”.
Sharma also said that TRAI will bring its new guidelines for net neutrality by January 15. According to him, the agency has received a lot of responses from both sides of the debate, but the final decision will be “all about consumer choice” and that every site, service and content provider will get the same access. “That (net neutrality) is broad principal and I think it’s a naturally correct principal,” he signed off.