By Shilpika Srivastava
A lot is going on over the issue of net neutrality, and the growing resistance to it by Internet users.
But, have you ever really thought why the world, especially the Indians are raising a ruckus over it?
Maybe you simply allowed the issue to take a back seat in your mind, and started to watch that funny cat video on You Tube. But, do you know you might just not be able to freely and fully ‘enjoy’ the Internet, and watch that funny cat videos too, from the coming April 24?
So people, kindly lend me your eyes and minds just for a few moments, so that I can explain the sensitivity of the issue, how India’s telecom regulators are trying hard to hoodwink you. Yes, your world might just change, in twelve days!
What exactly is Net Neutrality?
According to Wikipedia, Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers and government should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, mobile application or mode of communication.
What’s the fight for?
Sometime back the telecom companies enjoyed a profitable position in the market, fetched huge revenues during a period when the mobile users in India touched a number of 800 million people. This was the time when they largely focused on selling voice minutes, but what they really did was that they used Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to connect the users with other telcos. In simple terms, they just transferred the calls through Internet. And, its no rocket science to understand the difference of the cost between VOIP and the traditional voice calls.
Recently, what scared the telecom companies to the core was the easy accessibility to message or call someone provided by the platforms, like Whatsapp, Hangout, Hike and so on, and that too at the cost of Internet prices.
How it all started?
The argument over Net Neutrality picked up the hype when the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lost its case against Comcast in the US Supreme Court in 2010. In India, a telecom giant, Airtel, planned to charge higher tariffs for phone calls (or VOIP) made through Skype or Viber on its network through Internet. This clearly breaches the principle of ‘Net Neutrality.’
No doubt, it attracted an uproar among the users that forced Airtel to withdraw the plan.
If this, happens in India, then you will have to pay for each site you visit. It will be the carrier who will have full control on your activities online. They want that ‘right’ to charge whatever they want.
For an example, Airtel may allow you to use Hike absolutely free as it is their own product, but on the other hand, they might charge you a bomb when you share your jokes on Whatsapp.
You might not just believe that Reliance has already gone a step further with Internet.org. You can use Bing absolutely free, but have to pay when you ‘Google’ something. You have the right to share your thoughts on Facebook for fee, but not on Twitter.
Tell’em that #IndiaWantsNetNeutrality
TRAI has framed 20 questions regarding Net Neutrality seeking answers from public and telcos based on which TRAI will take its decision. The questions can be found on pages 113 to 116 of the official consultation paper at TRAI Consultation. File your answers via an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 24 April, 2015 (read ASAP).
If you find answering tricky, then simply sign this petition here.
This is a call to arms, a time to set your foot down and say, NO. Because, if we don’t act now, we may lose our freedom to ‘enjoy’ Internet in just 12 days.