Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Net Neutrality! Your right to free internet.

The term was practically non-existent till a few weeks back for users like us. We have been using internet to freely roam about in the virtual world. Some of use it for business; others are glued to FB and watsapp. But in any case, if you think this state of this internet utopia will remain the same….you should read the rest of this post.

Net neutrality, which refers to transparency on the web, is the basic guiding principle of internet. It is responsible for making internet the largest platform of communication and expression. Also known as open inter-working, net neutrality in simplest terms means that users should be able to access all lawful content on the internet equally and without any interference from the service providers. For instance, if you are paying the basic data charge, you should be able to access youtube, facebook or any other website without any extra cost and theoritically should have same speed. Same rule applies to different apps. Net neutrality also refers to your right of expression and openness on the internet which means that you should be able to express your disagreement freely (as long as it is not offensive or obscene). Though Chile, Netherlands and Brazil have lawfully enforced net neutrality; interestingly, the concept does not have a legal standing in a lot of countries including India. It has been followed as a norm because nobody thought against it. Until now.

With apps like watsapp and hike cutting down on revenue from messaging of the ISP and sites like youtube and Netflix consuming more bandwidth, ISPs are now considering “reclassification” of internet content. If it goes as planned, internet service providing companies would have different charges for accessing different websites. Companies may provide websites in which they have vested business interests at a higher speed while non-prioritizing the others. For instance, Airtel Zero plan offers free access to mobile apps registered with the company. Hadn’t Flipkart walked out of this deal, you could have accessed Flipkart app from your mobile even if you had zero balance. However, under this zero rating plan, to access websites which are not a part of this deal you would need to spend some extra.

Issue of net neutrality has been brought into limelight recently when TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) released a consultation paper to see how apps and services could be regulated and weigh the possibility of discontinuing net neutrality in the country. Though the telecom operators like Airtel and Vodafone defend the model; prime facie, it is violation of basic right to lawful internet content. Not to forget the extra bucks that you will have to shell out to use internet freely (well, almost).

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