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Financial Express hosts #NetNeutralityDebate: ‘Price discrimination can be allowed, but not for the same packet of data’

by Prasad Krishna last modified May 09, 2015 10:05 AM
Trying to cut through the noise on Net Neutrality in India, FICCI in partnership with Financial Express is hosting a panel discussion titled “Decoding Net Neutrality” in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The article was published in Financial Express on April 24, 2015. Pranesh Prakash participated in the discussion.


Trying to cut through the noise on Net Neutrality in India, FICCI in partnership with Financial Express is hosting a panel discussion titled ‘Decoding Net Neutrality’ in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Moderated by Sunil Jain, the guests on the Net Neutrality debate panel are Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Jay Panda along with ICRIER chief executive Dr Rajat Kathuria, IAMAI president Dr Subho Ray, Facebook’s head of public policy for South and Central Asia Ankhi Das, COAI director general Rajan S Mathew, Com First director Dr Mahesh Uppal and Policy Director of the Centre for Internet and Society  Pranesh Prakash.

Highlights of the debate:

Starting off the discussion, Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that this issue is all about market abuse and market power and not as utopian as it sounds. He said that this debate is nothing new as regulators identified the problem long ago. Chandarasekhar added, “TRAI had recognized in 2006 that there is an opportunity to abuse by access providers.”

Joining the conversation, COAI director general Rajan S Mathew said, “We have put the cart before the horse. What needs to be addressed first is online governance.”

Looking forward, ICRIER chief executive Rajat Kathuria said that we need to figure out the best way to use this privately funded public good. He added, “We still haven’t so far.”

Com First director Dr Mahesh Uppal tries to find a common ground and said, “Everyone is against ‘arbitrary commercial’ prioritisation or throttling.”

Subho Ray agreed and said, “There should be no blocking, throttling and preferential treatment.”

Facebook India’s Ankhi Das said that Internet.org is not for people who are already on the Internet. She explained, “Our objective is that it should be free and non-exclusive.”

Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director of the Centre for Internet and Society intervened to add, “An universally affordable model is important. We must ensure that the diversity that Internet provides is not lost.”

Taking the conversation further, Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, “I don’t believe data packets can be discriminated except in terms of speed and bandwidth.

Rajan Mathews interjected, “We do not discriminate, we differentiate. And all businesses differentiate.”

On this point, Rajat Kathuria said, “Price discrimination is something that should be allowed within boundaries of regulation.”

The Indian Express New Media Editor Nandagopal Rajan said that, “#NetNeutralityDebate panel agrees that price discrimination can be allowed, but not for the same packet of data.”

Jay Panda, Lok Sabha MP now also joins the discussion and says, “I have come out in favour of net neutrality despite the fact that my family will be benefiting from the lack of it. Whether fragmentation is desirable on the Internet or not, it needs to be debated. I am not in favour of fragmented access to the Internet.”

Underlining his views, Jay Panda reiterated, “Spectrum may be limited but access won’t be in the future. I am against prioritizing packets over others.”

Pranesh Prakash gave an overarching view and said, “Everyone benefits from Internet. What we need to figure out is whether everyone is getting paid enough.”

Jay Panda said, “It is possible for access providers to make money.”

Rajan Mathews said, “I think it is not fair to say that telcos can influence the govt.”

On this Jay Panda quipped, “The govt has to chip in its share to make the Internet accessible to all.”

Jay Panda says govts have been behind the curve in #NetNeutralityDebate and telcos have benefitted from it.

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