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Net Neutrality: Decide if you want free Whatsapp, Hike, Hangout or not

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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 advqos@trai.gov.in 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.

 

Next Story

After Launch of Facebook Pay in US, Will WhatsApp Pay Arrive in India?

Facebook is inching closer to launch WhatsApp Pay in India and will soon have positive news to share, the social networking platform's CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on October 30

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Currently, Facebook Pay can be used for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments on Messenger and purchases from select Pages and businesses on Facebook Marketplace. Pixabay

Before WhatsApp Pay finally arrives in India, Facebook has launched its own payment system beginning with users in the US that will work across its app ecosystem — Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Currently, Facebook Pay can be used for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments on Messenger and purchases from select Pages and businesses on Facebook Marketplace. Facebook Pay supports most major credit and debit cards as well as PayPal.

This facility, however, is different from WhatsApp Pay which has exclusively being planned in India and is expected to be announced soon once the country’s regulatory demands are met.

The peer-to-peer, UPI-based WhatsApp Pay service will reach over 400 million users — especially the small and medium businesses (SMBs) — to boost digital inclusion in the country.

Facebook is inching closer to launch WhatsApp Pay in India and will soon have positive news to share, the social networking platform’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on October 30.

“We have our test going in India. The test really shows that a lot of people are going to want to use this product. We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to launch to everyone in India soon, but of course will share more news when we have that,” Zuckerberg told analysts over the earnings call.

“We differentiate between payment systems that are built on top of the existing financial infrastructure like what we’re trying to do with WhatsApp payments or when we make payments in Instagram Shopping, and our work with something like Libra that is trying to build some new technological infrastructure for financial services,” Zuckerberg elaborated.

However, the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have expressed concerns over some of WhatsApp’s features in complying with the regulations.

Facebook
Before WhatsApp Pay finally arrives in India, Facebook has launched its own payment system beginning with users in the US that will work across its app ecosystem — Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Pixabay

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said if WhatsApp meets the regulatory norms from RBI and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), then it should be allowed to start digital payment operations in the country.

According to a report by Omidyar Network and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), nearly half of MSME owners with annual business revenue between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 75 crore would use WhatsApp Pay once it is fully rolled out.

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WhatsApp had earlier said it had built a local system to store payments-related data within the country but the RBI, in a later affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, said that WhatsApp Pay is yet to comply with its data localisation norms. (IANS)