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US Repealing Net Neutrality a Double Edged Sword For India

On Thursday, The US Federal Communications Commission scrapped net neutrality which required service providers to treat all internet traffic equally. This ruling also meant a victory for service providers like A T &T and Verizon Communications.

Debayan Roy | News18.com

Updated:December 15, 2017, 11:38 PM IST
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US Repealing Net Neutrality a Double Edged Sword For India
Representative Image / Reuters
New Delhi: After the United States moved to dismantle net neutrality, critics feared it would disturb the way internet functioned across the globe.

However, experts in India believe that though “Indian Internet businesses may have a difficult time ahead”, “Indian startups may gain from the repeal”.

On Thursday, The US Federal Communications Commission scrapped net neutrality which required service providers to treat all internet traffic equally. This ruling also meant a victory for service providers like A T &T and Verizon Communications.

Experts believe Indian Internet business houses have a difficult time ahead in approaching US markets.

Nikhil Pahwa, member of 'Save The Internet' forum and founder of Medianama, told News18 though things are not worrisome from the policy perspective but still 'India needs to be vigilant.'

"From a policy perspective, I don't really see an impact on India because we have very clear principles of net neutrality established by the TRAI. However we still have to be vigilant, because telecom lobbies in India are powerful," he said.

However, Pahwa feels that this decision by the US to scrap equal treatment of internet traffic may create hurdles for Indian Internet businesses to approach the US markets and could get worse if other countries follow the US.

"This also means that it will be difficult for Indian internet businesses to target US consumers. For Indian users I think this is a negative: we need net neutrality to be established everywhere in the world for there to be a globally competitive internet market and it could get worse if other countries emulate the US," said Pahwa.

If there is one country which can still boast of treating all internet traffic equally among others, it is India.

In a big boost to net neutrality, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) backed net neutrality and barred operators from allowing differential pricing for data in India. It said that no service provider will offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content or enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract with any person that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data.

This has set clear principles on net neutrality for India, believes the free internet activist who also believes that the US decision might 'help Indian startups.'

"From an impact on India business perspective, I think this might help Indian startups because capital moves to markets where there is greater freedom to do business. India has the strongest net neutrality regulations in the world so it helps our startups. Net neutrality rules in India are principles based and these are fairly strongly established," says Pahwa.

For India, the debate on net neutrality was kick-started after Facebook's big advertisement campaign for its Free Basics app that gave users selective access to services like communication, healthcare, education, job listings and farming information -- all without data charges.

The biggest worry that plagues consumer advocates now is that whether broadband service providers in the US will offer selective services like Facebook, Instagram, etc at a bundle price whereas others at higher costs. But as of now, India has nothing to worry in that segment.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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