Net Neutrality: Why You Must Fight To Keep The Internet Free

Net Neutrality (India)

(Image courtesy: Reddit India)

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has put forward 20 questions on the licensing of internet services and non-discrimination of internet access through telecom operators. Here’s why you must e-mail a response to these questions.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally. The TRAI has published a consultation paper, asking consumers their views on net neutrality in India. If telecom companies get their way, they would like to dictate how, when and what you should browse the internet. Nikhil Pahwa of MediaNama, a website on digital and telecom businesses in India, has distilled the 118-page consultation paper in an easy to understand manner. He is also answering all questions related to net neutrality here.

So far, telecom service providers (TSPs) in India like Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, sell voice minutes that allow you to make calls. Now, thanks to applications like Skype and WhatsApp, consumers can make calls using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This costs only a fraction of what traditional calls cost.

Telecom companies all over the world will benefit if they could charge differential rates for different internet services. Tech entrepreneur Mahesh Murthy eloquently explains the consequences of such a move. “In effect, if Airtel doesn't like YouTube but wants to push its own video app Wynk - it wants the right to offer that for free while charging you a bomb to access YouTube. If you use Reliance, which has already struck a deal with Facebook called, you can access Bing for free, but you have to pay to access Google. You have access to BabaJobs for free, while you have to pay for”

Flipkart had, reportedly, signed up with Bharti Airtel for their new platform called Airtel Zero. This platform will allow companies to buy data to offer their apps to consumers for free. But, as a consumer, you will have access to only those portals and websites which have signed up with Airtel. To access any other websites or apps, you will have to shell out extra for data charges. As per reports, Airtel will collaborate with 80-100 internet companies, including top e-commerce portals.

Here's what you must do

Write directly to TRAI at [email protected] by April 24, 2015, answering their questions and demanding net neutrality. Sign this petition on to make sure that there is no discrimination in Internet usage. And in case you still haven't done either of these things, here's a 30-second method - click on and follow the simple two-step process.

Watch this video to better understand why net neutrality is important. This video, by TotalBiscuit, was made last year to illustrate the issue of net neutrality in USA. Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T wanted to intentionally block or slow web traffic, creating paid fast lanes on the internet. In February, after months of petitioning by millions of American citizens, the US Federal Communications Commission voted in favour of tougher internet regulation, upholding the principle of net neutrality.

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