Pratap Vikram Singh | April 21, 2015
Network neutrality is all about keeping the internet free and open from the clutches of telecom operators/carriers. The government is expected to finalise a policy on net neutrality in a month’s time. When it actually does, it must keep in mind a few things to protect consumers’ interest and innovation.
No matter what, the telcom operators must not:
1) block access to the content;
2) provision fast lanes for content players who can pay to telcos and slow lanes for others. It must also ensure that zero rating (a new marketing strategy devised by telcos wherein they provide toll free access to customer for partnering online services and collect data fee from the service providers) must distort the level playing field for start-ups or content players without deep pockets.
Internet users have come out in support of strengthening network neutrality. After the telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) has brought out consultation paper on the same, it has received over 8 lakh emails. An online petition on change.org has been signed by close to 3 lakh people. A video informing users about network neutrality debate has over 9 lakh views.
While a jury is out on the neutrality debate, the telecom operators are saying that they are completely being unheard, and the argument is more emotional, and political, than factual and pragmatic. The network operators are not entirely wrong. Issues including heavy regulation – which causes telecom players to pay over 28 percent of their revenue to the government— lack of spectrum and increasing network congestion due to high bandwidth applications which forces telcos to invest in infrastructure are somewhat being neglected.
While the issue of the net neutrality is being globally debatedm a few countries including the US and Netherlands have opted for strengthening it.
In the United States the communications regulator, FCC, introduced open internet rules in March, which banned blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization by telecom operators. The FCC reclassified internet as a utility. The strict neutrality rules are a culmination of long debate which has spanned over five-six years.
The US could also does that because its democrat president Barack Obama came strongly backed strengthening the openness of internet. “For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access into and out of your home or business,” he said. “It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call or a packet of data.”
When the FCC invited public comments, it was flooded with 4 million responses.
A half an hour show at HBO shaped the public opinion in favour of strengthening network neutrality in the US. 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' went viral when posted on YouTube ten months ago. The video has been seen over eight million times.
The regulator, however, has allowed zero rating- though without much consideration to distortion of level playing field for start-ups and entrepreneurs.
When the government takes its final call on the future of internet, one hopes that it will ensure that the internet is not fragmented, distorted, and telecom players are not entirely cornered.
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