What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is a principle that all the contents available on the internet should be accessible free of cost and equally without any discrimination.
Internet by its definition comes with the concept of ‘free and fair’ access to all. Now that has been challenged as internet service providers and websites are jostling over the debate of net neutrality. The debate is over the decisions by some websites and mobile applications to tie-up with the network providers hence, becoming out of bounds for regular net surfers.
Why is it important?
Frankly speaking, net neutrality is a right every internet users should enjoy. The internet companies should not force the users to consume something that they do not like.
Those who are opposing a bid to regulate the net neutrality claims that it will create digital divide, throttle the concept of freedom of speech and expression and democracy.
For instance, if net neutrality does not exist then any online application which might even be popular among the people can get left out of the level playing field with an outcome of decreased service levels or higher costs due to certain agreements between another application developer and an ISP.
Why it matters for India?
Essentially for India, the net neutrality matters a lot. There is a great digital divide in India. Some person has an easy access to the internet 24×7 at any cost, and everywhere. While some are ahead of times in social media, there are many who are still among the beginners. Net neutrality can help bridge that gap as it operates on the principal of equal access to information at every level and participation for all.
Telcos are lobbying with TRAI to implement the regulation of net neutrality so they can increase their revenues. If TRAI implements the regulations then the big telcos companies may have a bigger say. In these circumstances, the big losers will be small and medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs, start-ups, independent media and content producers. Without the protection of net neutrality a cartel of telcos may get in a position to control the information that travels on the internet.
The ones opposing Net Neutrality want that the internet users are forced to consume what has been provided by the internet service providers. The self-decision of an individual to- ‘what to consume, what to not’ will flush out with the preference and privilege of telcos.
Is it like those who are interested in eating street food at a cheaper rate are forced to change their menu and compelled to start eating at an upmarket eatery at higher rates in order to get quality food with a faster rate of delivery service.
Without doubt, it will divide the users among the rich and the poor in terms of accessing the internet.