Net Neutrality Litmus : India Turning Positive

The principle of net neutrality is quite simply the specification of minimum standards in achieving an objective. This allows multiple flavors of implementation, and hence it does not lock out innovation by multiple entities, does not make monopolies. The usage of the term, “digital signature certificates” throughout the Information Technology Act, 2000 has significant bearing on the principle. “Digital signature’s” are the only method of authenticated communication under the enactment. This effectively blocks out legal recognition to future methods of authenticated communications, such as biometric authentication. It may be pointed here that presently the digital signature technology is the only reliable means of authentication, however an enactment should be forward compatible and provide legal recognition to future technologies obeying the minimum standards prescribed under it.

The Information Technology Act Amendment Bill, 2007 which is presently pending before a joint standing committee of parliament does cure this obvious defect in the statute by changing the term from, “digital signatures” to “electronic signatures”, moreover it specifies the minimum standards for the authentication, through electronic signatures. I hope this amendment passes scrutiny of the collective wisdom of the joint standing committee.

A side note, the e-procurement system recently introduced by the Government of India only supports PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) implementation through the Internet Explorer web browser and is incompatible with Mozilla Firefox.

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