A buzz that we have been hearing lately about Net Neutrality or Net Equality is based on the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISP) and governments should treat all data on the Internet as same without discrimination or charging differentially by user, which means that ISP or government should not be charging or controlling the downloading/uploading speed of anything that users wish to see over the internet be that be visiting a website or listening to any of your favorite song or watching a video of your favorite actor on Youtube. In short Net Neutrality means equal treatment of data transmitted over the Internet irrespective of source or content.
As our telecom company is no one to decide whom I should make calls to and whom I shouldn’t same way our ISP should not be concerned with what content I wish to see or post online. For example, Flipkart, which is India’s one of the largest e-commerce places, tied with Bharti Airtel for its platform Airtel Zero that allowed companies to buy data in order to offer their apps as free to the consumers. Therefore, Airtel Zero violated Net Neutrality by charging companies to buy data. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has also given regulations to telecom companies following which telecom operators had to do traffic shaping due to which user’s connection would slow down for services like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, etc but it would speed up for companies like Flipkart which is paying to telecom operators.
The very famous free internet project by Facebook named as Internet.org provided free access to a selection of web services like Facebook, Google Search, Wikipedia, AccuWeather and BBC news via a mobile app. Mark Zuckerberg advocated, “There is no harm in giving free access with all these services to a student to help him acquire knowledge and accomplish the homework.” Many Indian companies opted out of this project as this is against net neutrality and don’t allow consumers to visit links of their own choice but are forced to see only the links being fed to them.
Next question that comes up in our mind is how all this is affecting consumers, the answer to which lies in our internet usage. Currently, we pay for it as per the speed that we require, for example, our ISPs provide us with plans like 1Mbps, 2Mbps, 4Mbps, 8Mbps etc and the amount of data that we consume say 10Gb, 30 Gb, 100 Gb etc but without net neutrality there would be an added cost associated depending on the type of websites we visit or the type of services that we use. If this comes in affect then there could also be a time when we will need to pay extra for services like WhatsApp, Skype to name a few.
In many countries, people formed groups that advocated net neutrality by sharing their thoughts online and offline, signed petitions and forced their governments to stand for net neutrality by not letting them pass any rule or regulation against it. So when your time comes up to stand and raise your voice for net neutrality remember the reason – why it is necessary and raise your voice accordingly.
Ms. Monica Sharma
Faculty of computational Science