The ease of living enabled by digital technologies has turned digital innovations into essential services for the common public.



  • Internet has become a necessity for most day-to-day affairs and to enable access to the internet, various gateways have come up in the last few decades in the form of –
    • Telecom service providers,
    • Personal computers and smartphones,
    • Operating systems (OS), etc.
  • However, when these gateways enable and restrict access to other gateways or networks, their role shifts from being a facilitator (gateway) to a regulator (gatekeeper), threatening the openness of the internet.
  • Hence, the need for a code of conduct or regulation arises to keep the playing field level and accessible to all.



  • Discriminatory practices — Concerns have been raised over practices of the distribution platforms (channels through a service passes to reach final consumers) ranging from restrictions on payment gateways, advertising choices, app policies, etc.
        • For example, a report placed before Competition Commission of India (CCI) found Google Play Store’s payments policy “unfair and discriminatory” as it mandates to use its payment services for any kind of in-app payments or subscriptions.
  • Unilateral control — Since Google and Apple dominate the global market share of smartphone OS, their terms and conditions enable them to garner unilateral control over the publishing of smartphone applications on their OS.
        • For example, owing to more digitally driven businesses, the developers are forced to make changes to their applications in line with Developer Program Policies.
  • Regulations unable to match with new digital technologies — The code of conduct and regulations can’t catch up with the new gateway providers that are emerging.
        • For example, two prominent OS for smartphones, Google and Apple, though brought in good practices like quality benchmarks for smartphone, the oversight regulations balancing both users and developers’ interests remains insufficient.


Case of India

  • Net Neutrality — In 2015, after Facebook launched ‘Free Basics’ to let users access certain apps and websites for free, Indian government enforced the code of conduct for internet service providers (ISPs) by bringing policy on net neutrality.
        • This policy stipulated that telecom networks should treat all communication passing through them equally, independent of their content, application, service, device, sender/ recipient address.
        • It thus bars service providers from discriminating against internet content and services by blocking, throttling or granting them higher speed access.
        • Adopting Net Neutrality ensured India’s democratic stance against Big Tech and enabled access by ISPs to all content and applications regardless of the source.
  • Digital public goods (DPGs) — The Indian government also adopted a unique digital path trajectory – the digital public goods – content that are generally free and contribute to sustainable national and international digital development. For example, Aadhaar, UPI, DigiLocker, CoWIN, etc.


Global regulations

Digital Markets Act (DMA) — This European Union regulation aims to keep digital markets innovative and open to competition, through regulation.

    • It seeks to confront the domination of Big Tech which restrains the growth of new and alternate platforms, thus prohibiting the implementation of anti-competitive practices by the largest digital platforms.
    • It also aims to balance the relationship between these platforms that control access to digital markets and the companies that offer their services there.



India being one of the largest consumers of wireless internet (over 800 million users), the need of the hour for the government is to devise appropriate regulations to ensure a level playing field and not let the innovating gateways turn into tyrannical gatekeepers. Also, owing to wide dependence on digital platforms, it should be ensured that internet remains an open and permission-less platform for a digitally empowered India.


SourceThe Indian Express


QUESTION – The power of Big Tech is threatening the internet ecosystem by challenging its access to all users across the world. Discuss the concept of ‘net neutrality’ in this regard and how internet access for all can be ensured by the government?