Fight for net neutrality gets bigger and bold

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Taru Bhatia | December 25, 2015 | New Delhi


#save the internet   #net neutrality   #net neutrality facebook   #facebook free basics  

Facebook has taken up the war against the opponenets of its campaign Free Basics. The social media giant is giving advertisement in almost every national newspaper for past three days, pitching for Free Basics in the name of digital quality, earlier called internet.org.

Facebook has openly accused the opponents of its campaign for providing half-truth about Free Basics to Indians.

Meanwhile, the AIB has posted a video which is part three of its save-the-internet campaign in support of net neutrality. The video has been watched by 1,40,073 viewers on YouTube. In the video, the AIB team raised their argument against Facebook’s digital equality campaign stating that it is misleading people in the name of ‘equality’ and ‘free’, and has urged its viewers to take an informed step. The makers are urging its viewers to participate in the debate and send their comments on net neutrality to the TRAI before December 30.

On December 9, the telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) published a consultation paper on differential pricing of data services. The paper essentially talked about zero rating and asked for the comments and suggestions of stakeholders of the industry.

Last date for the stakeholders to submit their comment on TRAI’s paper on differential pricing is December 30 and counter-comments on January 7. Even though two papers are published so far concerning to net neutrality in the same year, TRAI has not taken its stand on the issue. 

Those opposing Free Basics argue that it will cut down competition from the internet, as the users will restrict their preferences to free services. Hence, financially small and budding players will suffer and eventually be sidelined from the internet space. Moreover, the internet users will get stuck in the walled garden, which means they won’t be able to expose to new innovations on the internet, if telecom operators will charge them extra to move out from their free services.

Mishi Chaudhary, legal director, software freedom law centre, argues, “If you give some services for free for certain period of time because you are rich then many customers will go in your favour. And that’s how you distort the competition in the market.”

But the telecom operators and Facebook hold the view that India with such low internet penetration needs zero-rating service, as it will help bring the unconnected population onboard, by proving them limited internet content for free of cost.

Non-profit organisation like internet and mobile association of India (IAMAI) which supports net neutrality and is open-minded to zero-rating also, agrees with it, however, it also mentions in its argument that zero-rating should be implemented keeping general principals of net neutrality in mind, which are: no blocking, no discrimination, no throttling, and no fast and slow lanes from the customer’s perspective.

In response to the ongoing process against Facebook’s Free Basics concept, the telecom regulatory association of India (TRAI) asked Reliance communications, Facebook’s only telecom partner in India, to put Free Basics on hold.  

Facebook on its platform is collecting petitions for the TRAI from its users to push forward Free Basics plan in India. So far, 3.2 million Facebook users have sent the petition to the TRAI supporting Facebook’s version of digital equality.
 

 

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