COAI Launches Sabka Internet, Sabka Vikas Initiative, Demands Same Service, Same Rules

24/04/2015 4:06 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), an industry association of GSM mobile providers officially launched its online platform at a press conference in New Delhi Friday, elaborating its position on the ongoing debate over net neutrality.

COAI said that they support an open Internet and support the right of consumers to decide what to do online. “We offer choice and do not block or provide any preferential access to any web site or app.” the press statement read.

“Today at 37 paise per minute, we have the lowest call rates in the world. We cover over 500,000 villages in India.” Gopal Vittal, CEO of Airtel said, adding that the telecom sector had paid the government over 17,000 crores in taxes and levies, and invested 7,50,000 crores in the last 20 years. “We have only one expectation from all this. We believe that the same communication service must be subject to the same rules.”

The COAI panel said that voice services being transmitted over the internet incur 1/5th to 1/6th the rate in data charges, claiming that data rates should be 6x for viability. COAI wrote in their press statement that to enable all services to reach customers across the country, “the same rules must apply to the same types of services, including Mobile and IP Voice services.”

"There are elites in the country who are broadband users. Do we want broadband to be an elite industry, or one of the masses?"

Himanshu Kapania, Vice Chairman of COAI said that netizens had been bombarded by misinformation in social media, referring to the Savetheinternet coalition’s net neutrality campaign, which sent over a million emails Thursday to TRAI consultation paper over OTT services.

“Telecom services providers have been needlessly vilified, and TRAI has been flooded by pre-programmed responses by users and non-users.” said Kapania. “There are elites in the country who are broadband users. Do we want broadband to be an elite industry, or one of the masses?” he asked.

“The only problem that we’re going to deal with, is that if the need to put 500,000 crores of investment into this country, what right do we have to not allow those people to come on to the internet, and strangulate this industry which is not able to invest, because people are subject to different rules for different services?” Vittal said.

COAI members refused to comment on the number of missed calls received by the Sabka Internet campaign.

Meanwhile, 52 professors from IIT and IISC have signed on a joint statement to counter the arguments in TRAI’s consultation paper, claiming that the consultation paper uses misleading and confusing terminology like OTT (over the top) services.

“It is like a road construction company calling a school accessible by the road as an over-the-top service. Sure, one has to use the road to reach the school, but the term suggests that the road somehow has a role in the school’s education service over and above just using the road to reach the school.“

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