Thursday, April 16, 2015

Net Neutrality : Don't mess with the Freedom !


The web-war has just begun. Hence the 'Net Neutrality' is the talk of the month. The raging debate has been sparked off after Airtel Zero, a platform launched by Bharti Airtel, allowed subscribers free browsing of websites of companies that join the platform for a fee. 

Net neutrality can be in simple terms understood as a principle of Internet neutrality or equality). That is the Internet service providers (ISPs) and governments as well as Telecom Service Providers should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
Why doing away Net Neutrality is not acceptable to netizens? 
The reply is simple: I
f internet so far has been user friendly and just a click of a mouse away or available like a varsity just at the touch on your screen, 
without net neutrality, there could be "package plans" for consumers. For example, for a minimum payment of Rs 500 or so, one can then 
only access websites based in India. To access international websites, one has to cough up more money and there could be also 
a situation different connection speed would be available for different type of content and payment.

The anti-thesis to Net Neutrality can be best explained in a comparison made by a cyber cafe owner who says, "if payment made to a Internet 
Service Provider (ISP) is like a road toll, what Airtel Zero had mooted was pay higher toll if you are going to meet a friend, but normal toll if you 
are going to a shopping mall or a destination of ISP's choice. So the freedom is being curtailed".

There's another step beyond this planned by those who want ISPs and Telecommunication Service Providers to have the 'right' to slow the speed 
of the car (read internet) if one is going to a specific destination. 
The crux of the debate actually starts from the immense and multiple usage of internet through popular sites like Youtube, What'sApp or NetFlix.
Here the simple argument being, several ISPs believe that they should be allowed to charge companies for services like YouTube and Netflix because these services consume more bandwidth compared to a normal website. Basically, such ISPs like Bharti Airtel want a share in the money that YouTube or 
Netflix make. 
But there's a catch.  It could be like taking the life out of internet. It will be akin to make a sweat maker make sweat when the sugar 
is banned in the town. 
"Till now, internet was very democratic and easily available to all. To start a website, there was no need of any political connection or huge
money to invest or bribe. One can host your website and if your service is good, it will find favour with web users". 
The result is they say web platforms like Facebook or Twitter or even E-commerce player Flipkart have made big after making very humble beginning.
They all succeeded because net neutrality allowed web users to access these websites in an easy and unhindered way. There was no extra payment 
involvement for visiting one site or the other. Sitting in Delhi, today one can scan net editions of papers in Manipur, Myanmar as also in Germany. 
Congress leader Ajay Maken  appreciates the sentiment generated mostly among net users that, "Lack of net neutrality means the end of 
web and any innovation on the web. ISPs will then charge web companies to enable faster access to their websites". 
But what does the government do?
As of 2015, India has no laws governing net neutrality, which would promise all the internet users to be treated equally on the internet, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. Top of that, there have already been a few violations of net neutrality in India, as they put it.


On March 13, 2015, Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Rajya Sabha,
"the issue pertaining to net neutrality are in consultative stage". He also spoke about the TRAI consultation paper.
The TRAI paper, put in the public domain on March 27, seeks comments/suggestions from all stakeholders for framing rules on net neutrality and 
on regulation of Over-the-Top (OTP) service providers such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Google Talk. 
"Most applications can trace the user's location for underlying processes (such as GPS apps finding the nearest restaurants). This information may be 
used to commit a crime, or the location itself may be the target of a crime. Such threats can impact the nation's security and financial health," TRAI paper says. 
Till now, netizens are reacting fast and batting strongly for net neutrality. The site http://www.savetheinternet.in/ has been followed, liked by overwhelming net
users and people endorse the statement that 'The internet needs you'. Actually this site has made netizens task of answering TRAI's 118-page questions 
easily. 
Between March 27 and April 14, already over 300,000 emails had been sent to TRAI demanding net neutrality. 
But it's not a desi problem per se. It's discussed globally and the answer perhaps lie in an united global stand. In meanwhile, greed industry is working overtime in India !
(ends)

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