The debate about net neutrality is on again. Actually a similar debate began in US a fortnight ago. We’re only following the trail. To the un-initiated, this is what net neutrality means:
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.
Today we’re living in a World of net neutrality.
That’s right now, your Internet service provider (BSNL, idea, airtel, airtel, Reliance etc.) cannot tell you or block you from visiting a certain web content, website, platform, application. Except for a few restrictions such as those on porn websites etc., you as an internet user can consume any content you like online. You can visit any website to do so.
It also means that You can never be discriminated upon on personal grounds. Except for certain age restrictions for some content, if something is “Public” every internet user can access it.
It also means that if you have an internet plan then your ISP cannot discriminate against you based on the device you’re using. That’s your ISP cannot force you to use only Android smartphone or a smartphone of some particular brand. On this front, India’s recent performance on net neutrality is NOT that versatile.
Your ISP cannot charge you more for using a particular online application. For instance you cannot be charged differently for using WhatsApp and xyz app or website.
If any of the above stops happening then we will live in a World of where net or internet is partial or prejudiced or biased net.
That said, TRAI(Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has just said that it supports net neutrality. On the contrary, certain service providers are opposing net neutrality on the ground that net-neutrality is affecting their revenue. According to them, when a person uses WhatsApp for messaging or for calling, the ISP’s SMS and calling revenue declines. Hence they want net to function as per free trade rules.
Does Net neutrality affects you? …Should we Support or Oppose Net-neutrality ?
And if net neutrality affects you negatively, then to what extent it does. Lets have a quick look into it.
I think the ISP’s argument of decline in revenue because of net-neutrality is Weak.
First, they are selling the Data usage (which you get by buying a Broadband or Data recharge). They are not selling the application. If WhatsApp allows a user to send instant messages and make & take calls; then these functionalities are provided by WhatsApp, and not by the ISP.
Hence as a user, we must always support net-neutrality.
The net-neutrality must be supported for a number of other reasons.
The primary reason is that it enables democratic access to information. For instance, because of this neutrality, people reach information of their liking, educate themselves, make political & social views etc. If the ISP or someone else starts dictating the user on what to consume and where to reach; then it will hamper information dissemination and education.
To conclude, here’s an example. At present all sort of information gets circulated on WhatsApp. Recently, we saw people & groups sharing fake news such as “Vote online for Ram Mandir in Ayodhya” , “Indian National Anthem awarded Best National Anthem in the World” or “Swiss Bank Account Lists” etc. But with each passing day people are thinking twice before reading and sharing such information. Simply because they are getting an inkling that the information may not be correct. A neutral web or net neutrality helps people learn this slowly and gradually.