New Delhi: Hundreds of startups including bigger players like, Zomato, Cleartrip, Paytm and their employees today approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to defend net neutrality, which they define it as access to content on Internet without any discrimination.
"We urge you to ensure that the recently announced initiative, Start Up India, addresses the concern of Net Neutrality, with clearly defined policies and firm rules," the letter said.
Around 500 people have signed the letter including Zomato Founder Deepinder Goyal, Cleartrip Founder Hrush Bhatt, XYSEC LABS Founder Subho Halder, iSPIRT Foundation co-founder Sharad Sharma and Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma.
There are 1,467 signatories to the letter, including 681 founders of various startups.
Startups expressed gratitude to Modi for government's initiatives, particularly programmes like Digital India and Start Up India and on improving the ease of doing business.
"In the wake of the important messages made by you on helping drive forward a Startup India, and on the eve of the Republic Day celebration of our nation's commitment to democracy, we are writing to you seeking your continued support for Net Neutrality," the letter said.
It said the open nature of the Internet allows every individual, whether online or likely to get connected to it in its current form - to be a creator and innovator by their own free will and choice.
"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 letter said.
Startups have reached out to Prime Minister close on the heels of telecom regulator Trai gearing to firm up its views on framework for differential pricing of data services.
They defined net neutrality as "Internet be maintained as an open platform, on which network providers treat all content, applications and services equally, without discrimination. This includes ensuring that network providers do not supply any competitive advantage to specific apps/services, either through pricing or quality of service."
The net neutrality debate in India goes back to December 2014 when Airtel decided to charge separately for Internet-based calls but withdrew the plan later after facing protest.
The debate heated up after Airtel launched its free Internet platform Airtel Zero and Facebook followed suit with its Internet.org, which was later rechristened as Free Basics.
Trai has started a public consultation on whether plans or schemes allowing differential pricing of the Internet based on its usage should be allowed or not.
This is the first consultation paper from Trai which has received maximum comments -- around 24 lakh -- till January 7.
The social network behemoth claims that the number of comments in support of Free Basics to be more than 1.35 crore as against Trai's official figure of around 24 lakh.