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No roaming charges from next year: Kapil Sibal

The telecom minister Kapil Sibal said on Monday that mobile phone subscribers would not be required to pay roaming charges from next year.

‘From next year. Our secretary has told you that it will be free from the next year,’ Sibal said in response to a query on the timing of removing roaming charges as proposed in the National Telecom Policy [NTP], 2012. The minister was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the curtain raiser event of India Internet Governance Conference.

The NTP, 2012, approved in May, aims to abolish roaming charges and allow mobile phone subscribers to use same number across the country without having to pay extra charges for services once they are outside their telecom circle.

Reacting to the news, the director general of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India [COAI] Rajan S Mathews said that he appreciated the concept of free roaming but added that the industry would have to work on the details of implementation of ‘One Nation, Free Roaming’ policy. When asked about its impact on the call rates, he put the ball in the court of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India [TRAI].    


‘GOVERNMENT AGAINST CONTROLLING INTERNET’

The government is against controlling or governing the Internet but want a consensus among stakeholders to deal with issues that may arise in future, Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday said. 'There should be no formal government interference in the dissemination of information through a medium which is perhaps quintessential representative of democracy... What we want is consensus and not a decision. Consensus which will then formalised through which we can deal in future,' Sibal said.

The minister said that some aspects of the Internet are completely protected by freedom of speech but some aspects of it may not be protected by free speech. He said that with time the nature of governance is changing in the same manner definition of freedom is evolving.

Sibal also expressed reservations on the title of the event, 'India Internet Governance Conference', where he was speaking.

'Quite frankly, I don't like the word governance. You are having curtain raiser on India Internet Governance conference. I think we are starting on wrong foot,' Sibal said.

He said that as India empowers its democracy further, the country will fully embrace Internet.
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