Net Neutrality, a term that has been out there for a while now, is causing a rage between internet users and the telecom service providers. Telecom service providers, the main service from where you get your internet on your smartphone or while using your dongle, are known to be blocking certain websites while offering certain ones for free. The ones blocked are being charged for use, as per actual. Let us explain.
India has no laws governing net neutrality. There are a few violations from certain telecom service providers in India and the TRAI is yet to form a proper guideline for the same.
The internet is supposed to be neutral for all—free to use as they want it, with no governing bodies in between. However, a few telecom providers are said to be heavily lobbying with the TRAI. They are planning to allow them to block certain apps and websites so that they can ‘extort’ more money from consumers and businesses. This is a violation of net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle where Internet Service Providers, be it your local cable operator or your telecom service provider, the government should actually treat all data on the Internet equally. There should be no discrimination or charging inequity on the basis of user, content, website, mobile application or mode of communication. At present, Airtel, Reliance and Tata Docomo are few of the ISPs in India which are lobbying for the same.
In the US, telecom companies attempted the same stunt, but failed due to massive public response against it, till finally, now, breach of net neutrality is completely illegal in the US.
As an example, if you are using electricity, the company will charge us only according to the amount of usage, and not how and which appliance we use. On the same grounds, when it comes to Internet, companies can charge for the service, and the amount of usage and speed. They have no right to charge us according to the websites we visit or apps we use.
Now, if you are using your smartphone to browse the internet and paying for your service accordingly, would you be happy if your telecom service provider gives you free access to Facebook and charges you for using Google Plus or Twitter? Just because one app or website is lobbying with the telecom service provider, why should users pay for it?
The Logical Indian reported that ‘India’s telecom regulator is gearing up to change the relationship between the internet and its users. In a paper it put out last month, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India made it clear that it is all set to allow telecom companies to turn the internet from an all-you-can-eat buffet into an a la carte menu.’
So here is an example what you may see in future, if the TRAI passes the regulation in favour of the telecom companies and not the internet user:
- Internet package for 2G or 3G data per month: Rs 250 or Rs 650 respectively
- Additional charges for Facebook: Rs 50 per month
- Additional charges for YouTube: Rs 100 per month
- Charges for Flipkart, Myntra, etc (shopping websites): Free
- Charges for Amazon, eBay, FashionForYou, Forever21, etc (Shopping websites): Rs 25 per month each
- Charges for Skype: Free
- Charges for WhatsApp Calling, Facebook voice chat (Rs 50 per hour)
- And so on.
Hence, looking at the above rates, would you be happy with certain websites or apps being free and others being charged? If Airtel charges for Amazon app use and caters to Flipkart for free, would it be fair for a Vodafone user to get charged for Flipkart if these regulations applied? How would you feel if you were in that spot?
The internet is supposed to be neutral for everyone.
However, the TRAI is yet to make its final decision. If the decision is made, net neutrality could either be illegal or banished for good.
In the recent news, Airtel had announced additional charges for data consumed when using Skype. Not too far away is WhatsApp voice calling, which could be attacked next. Airtel soon stepped back after flak from users. Flipkart has been lobbying with Airtel too—Airtel Zero was announced where the business paid the telecom service provider to offer users free data access to use their apps. To retaliate, users started getting off Flipkart, uninstalling the app and giving the app a negative review on Google Play Store.
Therefore, in order to get the TRAI create a fair regulation for internet use (net neutrality), citizen of India have got together to defend internet freedom in India. Logon to the website (netneutrality.in), to fight net neutrality. We all have to remind TRAI that their job is to protect the rights of consumers, not the profit margins of telecom industries. The demand is to get access to the free, open internet.
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