Net neutrality India means that treating data equally by government and internet service providers. As of August 2015, there were no laws governing net neutrality in India, which would require that all Internet users be treated equally, without discriminating or charging differentially by content, user, platform, site, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. There have already been a few violations of net neutrality principles by some Indian service providers.
The government has once again called in for comments and suggestions regarding net neutrality as of August,2015 and has given the people one day to post their views and opinions on the mygov forum. After this, the final decision regarding the debate will be made. On 28 November 2017 the TRAI released its recommendations on Net Neutrality. With that, India is one step closer to ensuring that net neutrality is enforce nationwide.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality India means that treating data equally by government and internet service providers.
Basically, the spirit of net neutrality state that certain content shall not be given preference over other by the ISP’s. For instance, many times ISPs may have their own content which they want to move over others providing identical subject, but net neutrality prevents any such practice of allowing favoured speeds to any content. No content shall be throttled nor shall it be given any boost by an ISP, as per the contours of net neutrality.
How the debate sparked in India?
The debate actually sparked off about a couple of years back. When social media giant Facebook launched Free Basics (earlier known as internet.org) in December 2015. Just a few months before this telecom major Bharti Airtel had launched ‘Airtel Zero’. In February 2016, Trai would ban both these projects. But what were these projects and why did Trai ban them? Although the service was free, it didn’t stick with free internet activists and the Trai, as it went against the very principles of net neutrality, since Facebook would inevitably be favouring some content over others.
Free Basics and Airtel Zero controversy
Both Free Basics and Airtel Zero let users access certain apps and websites for free (without being charge for the data consumers use). Airtel’s model was to charge companies that wanted to be part of the ‘Zero’ universe. As far as Free Basics is concern, data is subsidise by Facebook through a partnership with a telco.
So any app or service provider could apply to be part of Free Basics; provided they adhere to a set of rules set by the social networking giant. Facebook’s argument was that they were trying to make the Internet more accessible to people. Especially the ones that could not afford 4G connections and were still on the 2G network.
How repealing of net neutrality affects consumers?
Many consumer argue that if net neutrality India rules get scrap, broadband providers will begin selling the internet in bundles. Under this system, for a premium package will be selling for a price. Example, for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – a social media package, for other utility apps, some other package etc.
Consumers could also suffer from pay-to-play deals. A quick lane could be engage by big internet companies and media groups, while the majority(other than internet and media groups) would get stuck on the slow lane.
What are the concerns of small content providers and start-ups on not having net neutrality?
Some small business owners were concerned that if net neutrality is not there then industry giants could pay them to get advantage. This would leave them on an unfair playing field. Internet critics and activists argued that permitting access to a little selected web services and apps for free would put small content giver and start-ups at a drawback.
What is India’s position on net neutrality?
In year 2016, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) supported net neutrality India. And prohibited operators from allowing differential pricing for data in India. Its said that no service provider will provide or charge biased tariffs for data services on the basis of: content or enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract with any person that has the effect of biased tariffs for data.
However, it is fear that scrapping of the net neutrality rules in the US sets a dangerous precedent for other countries.