Net Neutrality: Of the people, by the people, for the people!

NEW DELHI: By the time of writing this article, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai)’s inbox might have already got choked with over 1.5 lakh emails as internet users from all sections of the society asking the regulator to save their ‘net neutrality’ right.

It would not be imprudent at this point of time to compare net neutrality with netizens’ right of accessing free internet. The spirit of democracy can be seen with Trai receiving nearly 10 emails a minute on net neutrality.

Net neutrality, or a term used to describe that internet service providers and the government should treat all data on internet equally, irrespective of content, users, applications etc, was into existence for quite some time but has become the cynosure of all eyes of late only, thanks to the birth of Airtel Zero, Whatsapp, and the likes.

The e-mail campaign, which began on Saturday through Savetheinternet.in website, to protect net neutrality has received stupendous response so far.

Besides, a video by standup comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB) also triggered many users to sign up for the campaign. It was shared thousands of times on Facebook and following that the social network blocked it but soon realized the authenticity and restored after many users complained.

The debate following the net neutrality issue has hit like a storm as everybody holds a stake in it and internet plays a significant role in our day to day life. The topic became a raging debate after telecom service provider Airtel launched Airtel Zero, under which companies can pay Airtel and have users browse their service free of data charges

Here, while one school of thought believes that as telcos buy spectrum shelling out a lot of money so OTT players do not have the right to ride into their infrastructure and provide services and on the other hand, another says that internet is for all so differential charging does not make sense.

But the point to ponder is that why the citizens will always suffer. At the end of the day, it is the end-consumer onto whom all the burdens are passed on whether it’s a rise in excise, service tax, or now the expensive spectrum.

Though populist measures are enough but while executing, the netizens are always the sufferers.

Sanjay Kapoor, Chairman, Micromax, opines that “The choice should be left to the consumers and today net and netizens have so much of empowerment and so much to choose from that I think let the market forces and consumer choices play out.”

He further said that the experience on data is really a big issue in India today as quality of services have almost depleted over the last few months “so telcos should concentrate on strengthening that and then the consumers need to make a choice which OTT player he wants to live his life around.”

Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and Group CEO, Greyhound Research, opines: “The selective and differential pricing levied by the Telcos/ISPs will definitely take a hit on India’s emerging digital economy. While rural India is still getting used to internet –based services for financial inclusion such as mWallets and online banking, the decision to monetize all web based apps will directly impact this part of the economy. Overall, all consumers of web-based services will become entirely dependent on their Internet service provider for access to basic web-based apps that were earlier free.”

The raging debate has also attracted government’s attention and now the Department of Telecom has formed a six-member panel to look into the subject.

Going forward, it would be imperative to see that whether internet turns out to be the right of the netizens or not in a democracy of —of the people, by the people and for the people!

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