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The COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) today reaffirmed its support to Net Neutrality and made a strong pitch for ‘Net Equality’ that will enable access to Internet for a Billion Indians as part of the Government’s Digital India vision. The Association urged all stakeholders to have a comprehensive and informed debate on the subject of Net Neutrality keeping in mind the requirements of India and its citizens.
Clearing misconceptions that have arisen from the recent public debate over net neutrality and concerns over operators who are trying to control the consumers’ access to the Internet, COAI said:
- We support an open Internet and believe that consumers, should decide what to do online. Our
job is to enable consumers to benefit from that freedom.
- We offer choice and do not block or provide any preferential access to any web site or app.
COAI said its members are fully committed to investing in the Government of India’s Digital India vision and need an enabling environment that promotes the growth of the entire Internet ecosystem.
“Without infrastructure and investment, there will be no Internet access. The operators have invested billions of dollars in license fees, spectrum fees and network roll-outs. Yet the Industry still makes negative return on the capital employed. “, it said. As per the Industry estimates, India would require an additional capital outlay of Rs. 3,00,000 to 5,00,000 crores over the next 10 years in spectrum, new technology, equipment, towers, optical fibre backbone, etc., to meet the PM’s vision of Digital India and to connect 1 billion Indians. “The need of the hour, therefore, is to have a sustainable industry that has the ability to invest in growth of data services and connectivity to all.”, it added.
The COAI stressed on the need of applying same rules to the same types of services, including mobile and IP Voice services. It also added “India has over 950 million mobile subscribers – the second largest in the world. This growth was enabled by innovation across the ecosystem – in our ever expanding complex networks, outsourcing models, infrastructure sharing, innovative pricing structures – that allowed operators to offer customers some of the most innovative and affordable call rates in the world. We need the same spirit to connect a Billion Indians to the Internet. This means innovations across the ecosystem – affordable smartphones, more efficient networks, even more broad ranging applications (especially in areas such as education, health, governance) and pricing flexibility – that promotes greater digital inclusion. Only then can users in rural India, or from a lower economic strata, be empowered through internet access.”
There is a need to ensure customers have the freedom to choose how they want to access the Internet. “We support this! The interests of a few should not dictate the fundamental right of a customer to choose what he/she wants,” the COAI added. Users should have the freedom to choose the device, technology and access platform – paid or subsidized as long as the Internet is always open in terms of access in a non-discriminatory manner.