The Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad has proclaimed that the citizens’ right to access the Internet is “non-negotiable”. To uphold the principle of net neutrality, Prasad has assured that the government will not allow any single entity to have a monopoly over it.
Keeping true to this vision, Prasad said that the Indian government had previously decided not to allow zero-rated plans such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero as they offered access to only select Internet services.
Speaking during the recently-held Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS), where incidentally PM Narendra Modi launched the UMANG egovernance app, Ravi Shankar Prasad stated, “When I was handling the communications department, my friend Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) met me a number of times with the idea of Free Basics.”
Launched in India in 2015, Free Basics was a programme rolled out by Facebook in partnership with six other companies Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm to offer free access to selected Internet services.
According to Prasad, the main idea behind Free Basics was to allow free access to all domains, including education, health and entertainment, provided that the customers entered the World Wide Web through Facebook.
The minister added, “I said India is a democracy, we don’t believe in one gate. We believe in multiple gates. Therefore, this gate locking for India will not be accepted and I did not allow it. This stems (from) our commitment that Internet must be accessible to all.”