India has recently been struggling a lot when it comes to Internet-based freedom. It doesn’t matter if you are from India or not, you might already be aware of the adult site ban that was implied towards websites that were serving adult content in India. That resulted in the ban on 857 mature content sites. But that decision was short-lived as almost every Indian thought it was a bad idea (and it indeed was). The ban was lifted just 2-3 days after the decision was made, and now the blocking is left on the ISP, which is still a thing that needs to be fixed.
But this post is not about that. This is related to a much more serious issue that needs to be addressed and the sad thing is that most of the Indian citizens who aren’t regular users of Internet won’t even know the effects of this. Yes, I am talking about the status of net neutrality in India.
So, I decided to write a post about the condition of net neutrality in India along with all the details that you might be interested in knowing. But first let us know the definition of net neutrality in simple terms.
What exactly the Net Neutrality is?
As we all know, The Internet is like a vast library or a web of computers that are interlinked to each other. These computers share and transfer petabyte of information within a second, and this happens constantly. The Internet is open, and we can easily access websites just by using a browser and by typing the URL of a website we want to visit. This is what makes the internet so useful, the openness and the amount and variety of information that is present.
Net Neutrality is a principle according to which government and ISPs should treat all the data available online equally. There should not be any discrimination based on users, content, website, platform, etc. Also ISPs should not charge differently for different sites or content.
But think of a situation where someone tries to control what you view on the internet and how you view it. It will take away the whole essence of using the Internet, right?
What is the Difference between Net Neutrality and Zero Rating?
As Mentioned earlier in this blog post that as per the Net Neutrality Principle, the content present over the Internet must be treated equally. As in India, telecoms want to control how you access the internet. Situations will be different if the Internet will be not neutral. You may be charged differently.
For example, if you can access Whatsapp for free, that doesn’t mean you can use all of its features for free. Some features might be available when you pay extra such as Video calling feature.
In short, you can use Whatsapp for free but if you want to use its video calling feature, you will have to pay the extra charge.
Zero-rating is a program in which you can get free access to the sites that are participating into this program because they pay the ISPs for it, but you will not get free access to those sites that are not a part of this program.
Now, let us imagine we have zero rating already implemented in India. Now, the deal with this will be that only the websites and online services which pay the ISPs and mobile internet providers will be the services you will be able to access for free. This might not sound malicious at first but then think of all the new services that won’t be able to pay the ISPs and hence won’t be included in the zero rating plan?
Now, this is something that sounds utterly despicable and should not be allowed. Not only will the users have limited options, they won’t be able to find any new or better service and even the new and better services won’t be able to make their way into the people’s life and usage.
All this violates the idea of net neutrality and the idea of the free and open internet.
Situation in India
It is important for us to know the elements that are attempting to mess with the idea of net neutrality in India.
Let’s start with mobile network providers like Airtel. Airtel started messing with the idea of net neutrality the moment when they started providing extra plans for using services like WhatsApp, Viber, etc.
Airtel had announced special VOIP calling pack for prepaid customers, according to which customers had to pay extra if they make calls using Skype or Viber that you read here. But later they withdrawn this VoIP tariff Plan.
Now, why would you buy a different plan over your existing plan for data? Sounds totally stupid, right?
But thankfully people started giving negative reaction towards these plans and Airtel soon got the hint that this was not a welcome change at all.
Later on they introduced zero rating and then Flipkart, which is India’s one of the top eCommerce websites started supporting Airtel on zero-rating. It wasn’t long when people started going all guns blazing on both Flipkart as well as Airtel. Both the companies started facing a lot of negative reaction from people. You can still go over to Play Store and check the 1-star reviews for the Flipkart as well as MyAirtel app, and most of them will be due to the mess of net neutrality.
Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the internet.org initiative that is aimed towards providing internet access to places and people who are not able to use the internet as of now but on the other hand it will lead to a great monopoly.
Just to mention that out of the 1.2 billion population of India, 159 Million people use Mobile Data at present which likely to be touching 314 million by 2017 [Source]
Watch this video
In this video, Tanmay quoted that due to the competition, calling charges have reduced to a greater extent, but if it was a situation of monopoly, we would have paid 15-20 INR per minute for calling.
Views of Indian Government
TRAI has issued Consultation Paper that you can check out here to know what government has to say on this. Additionally, you may watch this debate video in which the officials are present to discuss net neutrality. See how they have to say on the whole of this issue. Government do have some positive points too.
How to share your views with Government #before20August2015?
Well we, as the citizen of India and users of these telecom providers can share our views to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as well of Department of Telecom. Steps are mentioned below as how you can share your views on mygov.in.
Register on the MyGov.in website
You will get the login details via SMS on the number you have provided while signing up.
Use the details you got via SMS to sign into the website
Visit the net neutrality page, Write your response and submit it.
This is how you can present your views in front of the government when it comes to net neutrality.
62748 comments have already been published at the time of writing this blog post, but we need to further act, as 61k is a very small number in the country population of more than 1 billion!
If you are reading this blog post, you are also connected to the Internet somehow. So whatever you think about Net Neutrality, submit your thoughts and views on mygov.in website by following the steps mentioned above.
Don’t just sit back and enjoy the whole thing.