With the heated debate going on between various telecom operators and the citizens of India on the free usage of the internet without any restrictions, here's what you need to know-
What if you wake up one morning and find out that you will have to pay a certain amount over and above your basic data plan to Google your silliest question?
What if you are told that you'll have to pay something to check how many likes you got on your profile picture on Facebook?
What if you are forced to pay something in order to compare your desired product with those available on Snapdeal/Myntra/Jabong while Flipkart is free to use?
What if you are told that you'll have to pay an amount more than Rs. 55 for operating your beloved WhatsApp?
What if you are told that Quora is no more free to use?
What if you are told that you won't be able to visit a particular site of your interest until you pay more than you had to pay earlier?
What if all these above mentioned 'What if's' come true?
If the above questions disturb you, then dear reader, you need to act upon your rights to save the internet and that too really fast because the said morning is not very far, i.e., 24th April is the Doomsday decided to deprive you of the freedom of equal access to all the lawful websites and services over the internet, without giving priority to any website over the other! Now comes the question of Net Neutrality and how it can save the internet-
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the Internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online. This is the definition of an open Internet.
Net Neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that Internet service providers should provide us with open networks — and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn't decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn't be concerned with the content you view or post online.
In simple words, Net Neutrality means freedom of using the internet as per the will of the user, i.e., viewing, opening whatever site/content you want to view/use without any restriction from the service providers. It means that the user decides which social networking site he wants to operate, from which e-commerce website he wants to shop without any restrictions on the usage of a particular website or an app.
How did it start?
At the end of 2014, Airtel decided to charge its subscribers extra for use of certain apps like Skype and Viber which offer free voice and messaging services; hence, competing with the voice and messaging services of telecom providers.There were protests, but Airtel stood ground, saying it would wait for Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services. The telecom companies complained that such free voice calling and messaging services by various apps through the internet are hindering their business. The paper asks certain questions regarding what should be done about the OTT service providers, whether there is a requirement of licenses or not?
Then, Mark Zuckerburg brought to India internet.org, providing the subscribers of Reliance Communications a set of websites free to use, without any charge. There was not much buzz about the same because it does not charge anything extra, rather provides access to certain websites for free. Although, it is not attacking the customer's pocket, but it still distorts the equality of access to all the lawful websites and services available over the internet. After the commotion over Net Neutrality, many Indian brands backed out from this deal of internet.org with Facebook, namely NDTV, Times Internet group, Clear trip etc.
However, Mark Zuckerburg's argument clearly explains that internet.org is not harming the concept of Net Neutrality in any way which is explained below in detail.
Earlier this month, Airtel Launched ‘Airtel Zero’, which provides customers free data access to a variety of mobile apps that sign up with the telecom provider which resulted in a frenzy by the internet users. When the big business giant Flipkart, signed up for Airtel Zero it worked as the fuel to the fire. Although now, Flipkart has opted out of the same saying it supports net neutrality.
In March 2015, TRAI put out the most awaited 118-page consultation paper asking the public for its opinion on 20 questions, most of them about how the Internet can be regulated.TRAI has requested the concerned people to submit their comments until 24th April, counter comments to which can be submitted till 8th May. The main reason why TRAI is planning to regulate the internet is the revenue losses suffered by the Telecom industries due to the cheaper services provided by OTT players. Not just cheaper, these services are much better than those provided by the Telecom companies. Revenue losses refer to a loss of profit, I.e., the TC are not incurring losses but have witnessed a decrease in their profits, which is known as Revenue loss.
Story of Internet.org in India:
As mentioned above, Facebook's internet.org initiative is being highly criticized without proper reasoning.
Quoting a few paragraphs from his post on Facebook:
First, I’ll share a quick story. Last year I visited Chandauli, a small village in northern India that had just been connected to the internet.
In a classroom in the village, I had the chance to talk to a group of students who were learning to use the internet. It was an incredible experience to think that right there in that room might be a student with a big idea that could change the world — and now they could actually make that happen through the internet.
The internet is one of the most powerful tools for economic and social progress. It gives people access to jobs, knowledge and opportunities. It gives voice to the voiceless in our society, and it connects people with vital resources for health and education.
I believe everyone in the world deserves access to these opportunities.
This is why we created Internet.org, our effort to connect the whole world. By partnering with mobile operators and governments in different countries, Internet.org offers free access in local languages to basic internet services in areas like jobs, health, education and messaging. Internet.org lowers the cost of accessing the internet and raises the awareness of the internet’s value. It helps include everyone in the world’s opportunities.
In India, we’ve already rolled out free basic services on the Reliance network to millions of people in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Telangana. And we just launched in Indonesia on the Indosat network today.
We’re proud of this progress. But some people have criticized the concept of zero-rating that allows Internet.org to deliver free basic internet services, saying that offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality. I strongly disagree with this.
We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it.
But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles — universal connectivity and net neutrality — can and must coexist.
To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all.
Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes -- and it never will. We’re open for all mobile operators and we’re not stopping anyone from joining. We want as many internet providers to join so as many people as possible can be connected.
It is crucial to understand that internet.org is not attacking or distorting the basic idea of Net Neutrality, and hence shouldn't be cornered because of other incidents happening in the industry. You can read his full note here: Mark Zuckerburg on Net Neutrality in India.
Importance of Net Neutrality
The importance of net neutrality is not limited to individual users, but also to various small business owners, startups, entrepreneurs who launch their businesses on the internet on the basis of its free access. E-commerce has emerged as a booming market and has lured a lot of people in investing on the same to launch their businesses, market their products over the world and distribute the same to the customers. The free internet is the lifeline to the new ventures. With no net neutrality, such businesses would have no chance of marketing their products and services through the internet because of free and easy access to a certain set of websites.
"A start-up can come up with an app today and can immediately attract a global audience. The likes of Googles and Facebooks could have struggled to grow if the Internet had not been open."
India without Net Neutrality:
This is how your internet pack will look without Net Neutrality:
If I compare it with my current data plan which costs me INR 199/month with free and equal access to the internet, I'll have to pay INR 464 over and above my base plan of INR 150 based on the sites I want to access. That's ridiculous, isn't it? Moreover, all the sites other than those I pay for especially, will be accessible at 8kbps depending on the network load and that too after talking over to the customer care to authorize their access which may take more than 2 business days.
Continuous complaints by telecom operators induced TRAI to bring out an 118-page Consultation Paper that has 20 questions asked to the Stakeholders. The questions have been asked to analyze the implications/consequences of the growth of Internet services/Apps/OTTs on the telecom industry and consider whether or not changes are required in the current regulatory framework. Instead of guiding them in providing better services, TRAI is all set to give them authority to distort the freedom of access and choice to the internet.
|Does it look like the better option?|
If voices are not being raised for the same then TRAI will allow these telecom operators to violate the internet, challenging our freedom to choose & privacy. TRAI has come out with a consultation paper, asking 20 questions to the stakeholders, the replies to which can be submitted until 24th April 2015.
TRAI has requested "Stakeholders" which, in this case, means all the concerned citizens to send their comments on the same through email. You can submit your response via http://savetheinternet.in or http://netneutrality.in and help save the internet from being violated!
The internet has been a source of expressing freedom from the start, then why is it being regulated? There was no need then, there is no need now. It's time we tell the government and the telecom companies that free and equal access to the internet has been our right since the start and will continue to be because we support #NetNeutrality!