Prasad says he 'denied permission' to Facebook's Free Basics

Prasad says he 'denied permission' to Facebook's Free Basics

Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday said he had denied permission to Facebook's Free Basics platform when he was in charge of   communications portfolio.

"Right to access of Internet cannot be denied. Therefore, when Facebook came to India with Free Basics, I examined it (and) and found it will be free only when you enter from my gate. India does not believe in one gate and I did not give permission," Prasad said while speaking at the Digital India Summit.

He said it is for USA to decide on net neutrality but "Our stand from day one is very clear - right of non-discriminatory access to Internet is not negotiable".

The sector regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, had issued a regulation in February 2016 on discriminatory pricing for Internet access which led to ban of platforms like Free Basics and Airtel Zero.

TRAI ruled against discriminatory pricing for different data platforms or content and said operators cannot enter into pacts with Internet companies to subsidise access to some websites.

Companies violating the rules would be fined Rs 50,000 a day for the duration of contravention, subject to a maximum of Rs 50 lakh.

Facebook was offering free Internet access to some websites that were available on its Free Basics platform.

Following debate on net neutrality, Prasad as telecom minister had set up a panel of officers from the Department of Telecom (DoT) to examine the matter and come up with recommendations.

Prasad had then said the government would take a holistic view on net neutrality after the DoT panel and TRAI finalise their recommendations.

The DoT panel too had recommended bar on platforms like Free Basics as it will act as gatekeeper to the Internet.

Last month, TRAI finalised its recommendations on net neutrality in which it prohibited Internet service providers from making any discrimination in traffic while providing web access by either blocking or throttling some apps, websites and services or by offering 'fast lanes' to others.

"I believe Internet is one of the finest creations of mankind and must be available to all. If Internet is a global platform it must have link with local," Prasad said.

Digital economy

The DoT has to now take a call on TRAI recommendations on net neutrality.

He said the government is making efforts to make India a USD 1 trillion digital economy over the next five years, which includes IT, IT enabled services, shared economy etc.

The minister said the government recently provided "duty shield" to electronic and mobile sectors to promote domestic manufacturing.


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