Charting a path forward for Internet access in India

The attached policy short was co-authored by R Street Associate Fellow Sharada Srinivasan.


 

When India’s network-neutrality activists won an overwhelming victory in February, their first impulse was to celebrate on social media, including Twitter and Facebook. It was an ironic victory celebration, since the civil-society advocates had succeeded in scuttling broad Internet access initiatives that might have allowed hundreds of millions of Indian citizens to wage their own Facebook media campaigns.

Now that the celebrations are mostly over, those cricket chirps one hears signify that India’s civil-society stakeholders and policymakers are giving little further attention to the problem of getting the next 1 billion Indians online.

As an American lawyer and an Indian public-policy analyst, we make the case in this policy brief that the current policy vacuum in India represents a missed opportunity. It’s time for all stakeholders to look past Facebook’s proposed zerorating program in India – the crux of the recent dispute before the Indian telecoms regulator – and instead find common ground on effective policies to promote the speedy and inclusive buildout of Internet infrastructure in the world’s second-largest nation. Right now, there’s essentially no program in place in India to do this.

 

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