When Sir Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, he wanted it to be open and neutral. This was the way he dreamt it to be, and it most definitely is the way it’s supposed to be. Come today, and this idea is being threatened by a bunch of selfish money grubbing nitwits.
Net neutrality is the simple idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally by the ISPs, with no preferential treatment given on any basis. The idea is to keep the internet open and free to all. The threat looming over this is due to the greediness of a few network providers, who leap at any opportunity they get to make some extra cash.
In India, it all started back in December 2014, when Airtel decided that it was fair game to exclude VoIP from it’s standard data plans, and offered separate packs for it. As expected, Airtel drew flack from all four corners for this act, and they were forced to roll it back.
Later in February 2015, Facebook with Reliance Communication, launched Internet.org in India, a platform that aimed to provide free net connectivity to users via an app. The catch? You could only access the websites which they have partnered up with.
And now, Airtel announced it’s Airtel Zero Plan, by which App and Web developers could pay a fee to make their app or site toll free for the end users. Sounds great, right? Airtel is calling it a win-win solution, which benefits the users as well as the developers, and they wouldn’t be wrong in thinking so.
But I urge you to see the bigger picture. The Internet wouldn’t be place it is now if it weren’t for the existence of many websites that have made a significant mark. But most of these sites had humble origins. Even the mighty Google had its origins in a garage. So, it really isn’t right to assume that all new startups will have the sufficient means to consistently pay for the plan. And as end users, we would naturally be inclined to use the free alternative. So, such biasing would eliminate competition as we know it completely. And this is not all. Now, Airtel has announced this plan. If this goes on track, then it’s safe to assume that other providers will follow suit with similar plans of their own as well. So, to level the playing field with the bigwigs, the startups will have to pay the tariff to all the network providers, which is next to impossible. So, we’ll have apps that will be toll free in one network, and carry a hefty toll on others. And whats to stop the network providers from throttling the websites not on the platform in the future?
Right now, the final say in whether to pass this plan or not rests in the hands of TRAI. But that is not the only issue. Internet.org has already been passed and has an Android app. And trust me, newer threats will emerge. So, in light of all this, I urge all the fellow netizens to respond to TRAI of this here: Save the Internet. All it takes are a few clicks, and it gives you the satisfaction of knowing that whatever the outcome, at least you did your part.
Here ends the rant!
Link to TRAI’s consultation paper on OTT : Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services
Also, read this worderful article by Sir Tim Berners Lee on Net neutrality: Net Neutrality is critical for Europe’s Future.