As the battle for the internet and the controversy over Facebook’s Free Basics enters its final stages, the founders of over 500 startups and several investors are writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, supporting net neutrality and opposing the differential pricing regime for data.
The letter will be sent to the Prime Minister on Tuesday by SaveTheInternet coalition, a group of net neutrality activists, before TRAI issues its final verdict on the consultation paper on differential pricing.
It is identified that the letter has 1,562 signatories (over 500+ Startups & 15+ Investors), including entrepreneurs like Sairee Chahal, founder Sheroes.in; Paras Chopra, founder and chief executive of Wingify Software Pvt Ltd; Manish Vij, founder of Smile Vun Group (SVG); Ashish Kashyap of the Ibibo Group; Hrush Bhatt, co-founder of Cleartrip Travel Services Pvt. Ltd; Archit Gupta, chief executive officer and co-founder of Cleartax.in; Abhinav Lal, co-founder of Practo Technologies Pvt. Ltd; Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder of One97 Communications Ltd and Deepinder Goyal, co-founder of Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd. Among the investors who have signed the letter are Mahesh Murthy, founder of Pinstorm and co-founder of Seedfund; Brij Bhasin from Rebright Partners; Navin Honagudi from Kae Capital; Sanjay Swamy from Prime Venture Partners; Abhishek Gupta from TLabs, a startup accelerator by Times Internet Ltd; Sharad Sharma, founder of think tank iSPIRT Foundation; and Vishal Gupta from Bessemer Venture Partners among others.
The letter talks about Net neutrality simply being an open platform of internet with network service providers treating all content, applications and services equally, without discrimination. This means that specific apps or services are not favoured, either through pricing or quality of service. The activists, in the letter, argued that the differential pricing for data services that the telecom companies have been championing for would have a detrimental impact on India’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.
However, Telcos have counter argued that differential tariffs for data will help grow the telecom industry and increase Internet penetration in the country, benefiting consumers in the long run. Companies such as Telenor ASA, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd and Reliance Communications have argued that the country has the prerequisite legal framework for regulating and monitoring differential pricing measures provided by the service providers and that TRAI can deal with any issue regarding anti-competitive practices on a case-by-case basis as and when they arise.