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Telecom operators have asked the government to hold public discussion on the issue of Internet neutrality with a view to ensuring unhindered access to Web-based services.

Industry body COAI has asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) to discuss the matter publicly before firming up its view.

DoT has already set up a committee under Telecom Commission member (Technology) A K Bhargava to make suggestions on the subject. At present India does not has any legislation on net neutrality.

(Also see: What Is Net Neutrality? Here’s a Simple Explanation)

Under the net neutrality principle, telecom and Internet companies should treat all Web-based services equally and there should be no differential pricing or any kind of barrier that discourages people from accessing services.

The issue came to limelight after telecom major Bharti Airtel in December decided to charge separately for VoIP calls that are made using the Internet connection.

The company later withdrew its scheme following huge public outcry as at the prescribed rate for VoIP calls.

In a letter to Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg, COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said: “We would also like to respectfully request the DoT to initiate an open consultation with all stakeholders to examine all issues pertaining to net neutrality before formulating a view on this issue.”

Telecom operators and VoIP service providers or Over-the-Top (OTT) players have been at loggerheads over this issue. Telecom operators have said that OTT players like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber etc are eating up their main revenue without investing in networks.

OTT players on the other hand maintain that access to Internet or web-based services should be allowed without hurdle for growth of communities and nations.