Net Neutrality : Now or Never

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A few months back, the United States of America proposed to release a bill which enabled large telecom and cable corporates to choke the transmission of the data over the internet. These companies attempted to discriminate the data based upon the sender and regulate the speed in which it reached the user. Today, India is facing a similar issue. And it’s time we reacted. It is India’s turn to show how much we love the web. We need to protect and safeguard the open web – the largest public resource.

What’s Happening?

In December 2014, Bharti Airtel started charging users extra for making VOIP calls using Viber on their network. But they couldn’t keep charging the users for long. Users were quick to detect and protest heavily on social media. But before this, Telecom Service Providers (TSP) had already started giving out special data packs that make access to services like WhatsApp, Facebook, or Wikipedia at different rates than access to other websites on the Internet. That is where it all started – violating the principles of net neutrality.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
– Source : Wikipedia

In simple words, Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.

The Web we know – the world’s largest public resource, is an open and free space where anyone, anywhere can express or share their views independently without having to answer to anyone. But what would happen if some large corporates decide to choke you and restrict your voice so that their biased opinions are heard. That reminds me of a controversial novel I read (I read it because it was controversial) : “1984” by George Orwell. The novel describes a large Party trying to force you to play by their rules even if it is wrong. That is how the internet situation is currently heading to in India. We are forced to pay for something that is given as gratis.

A very good example to understand Net Neutrality has been given here.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released a 118-page “Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) services” on March 27, 2015.

In this heavily biased document, TRAI asks 20 questions, most with the implicit assumption that some form of regulation should be brought up on websites. You can read an abridged version made by some folks on the Internet.

Why should I bother?

If there was no Net Neutrality, the Internet would not be as we perceive it today. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can accept extra money from large corporate companies like facebook, WhatsApp and Google to make their services available to users at different data rates than normal. ISPs can then create slow as well as fast Internet lanes, which will mean all websites cannot be accessed at the same speed and one can do so only on paying an additional sum. For instance, currently, you have a standard data package and access all the content at the same speed, irrespective of whether its an international website or desi. Similarly, ISPs can also charge extra for the free calls you make using services like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and others.

Net Neutrality is extremely important for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who can simply launch their businesses online, advertise the products and sell them openly, without any discrimination. But if such a ruling is put into place, these SOHO companies will be pushed backward for better delivery of content from the larger corporates. It is essential for innovation and creating job opportunities. Big companies like Google, Twitter and several others are born out of net neutrality. With increasing Internet penetration in India and given that we are becoming a breeding ground for startups and entrepreneurs, the lack of net neutrality should worry us gravely. And most importantly, net neutrality is very much essential for freedom of speech, so that one can voice their opinion without the fear of being blocked or banned.

What should I do?

We are starting a campaign supporting Net Neutrality on all social media. Join us using the hashtag #FightForNeutrality.

You could do the following to show your support for Net Neutrality and disapproval of the TRAI Consultation Paper :

  • Share this post and any other relevant posts related to Net Neutrality on your social media using the hashtag #FightForNeutrality.
  • Sign the change.org petition.
  • Shout out with us to save the internet and Net Neutrality on Thunderclap.
  • Write to TRAI : advqos@trai.gov.in to show your disapproval.
  • Change your social media avatar using the following avatar (Click to Download).
    #FightForNeutrality Avatar

More

Read more about the issues and Net Neutrality :