Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Zomato co-founder Deepinder Goyal, Sheroes’ Sairee Chahal and Practo co-founder Abhinav Lal are among the 528 startups that have signed an online letter urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to uphold the principle of net neutrality.
The letter, released by SaveTheInternet.in, defines net neutrality as a principle in which internet service providers don’t discriminate for or against online apps and services, on the basis of availability, speed, or cost of access.
“Any violation of net neutrality will invariably deny our populace – and even the world – the opportunity to have unbiased access to the solutions that our talented entrepreneurs are devising. The aspirations of our youth to solve our problems show great promise, but need to be protected and nurtured for the sake of our future,” the letter reads.
Investors such as Mahesh Murthy, Brij Bhasin (Rebright Partners), Navin Honagudi (Kae Capital), Ritesh Banglani (Stellaris), Sanjay Swamy (Prime Venture Partners), Vishal Gupta (Bessemer Venture Partners) and Abhishek Gupta (TLab) also signed the letter.
The letter was also critical of Facebook’s Free Basics programme, which was earlier called Internet.org. The initiative enables access of selected apps and app-based services to people from developing countries at zero cost. Free Basics has been criticised heavily for violating the principle of net neutrality.
Free Basics gives access to sites such as Wikipedia or AccuWeather, in addition to the social network’s own app but does not allow access to many services such as YouTube, Gmail, Google or Twitter. Facebook says that Free Basics will enable India’s poor to access the internet at affordable rates.
“Vested interests have tried to mold public debate on Net Neutrality as pitting those who support net neutrality against those who advocate providing access to the masses. This is pure propaganda with no basis in reality,” the letter reads.
Net Neutrality and the provision of Internet access to those who cannot afford to pay for it can and must co-exist, it said.
Paytm’s Sharma, who has been vocal about net neutrality, tweeted: Just signed and submitted letter to our PM @narendramodi . If you want equal opportunity for Indian startups, do it.
In December last year, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma came out strongly against Free Basics programme.
“Oh my fellow Indians, either choose this & do a jihaad for independent Internet later or pick #NetNeutrality today,” he had tweeted.
To counter the opposition to Free Basics, Facebook had recently launched an online campaign where users could send a pre-written email to TRAI, pledging support to Free Basics. The move drew a lot of flak on social media channels. Telecom regulator TRAI wrote a strongly worded letter to Facebook, slamming the social media giant for the way it ran the campaign to save its Free Basics initiative.
TRAI is to firm up its view on differential pricing of data, which is central to the net neutrality issue, by the end of this month.
The last date to receive feedback on a TRAI paper floated on differential pricing was January 7. TRAI has received some 24 lakh comments on the issue.