What is Future of Net Neutrality in India, and how does it affect you?

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“What is Future of Net Neutrality in India” in simple word Net neutrality means that governments and internet service providers treat all data on the internet equally…

Net Neutrality rules accepted in India by Telecom Commission

On December 14, 2017, the FCC voted to repeal the strong net neutrality rules that were preserving an open, fair, and competitive internet for all users. In a way, 2017 was the year of net neutrality. Though the concept older than last year, for many it was unknown or just a peripheral matter until the FCC decided to abolish it. But What is Future of Net Neutrality in India, and how does it affect you? In this article, TelCob.com (Telecommunications Services provider) is going to explore these questions, as well as many others.

Before we do that, though, we would like to emphasize that net neutrality is not purely an Indian matter: right now several countries are debating its pros and cons or have legislation in place that protects it — or attacks it. We’ll talk a little more how countries besides India tackle the questions surrounding it, but first, let’s get to what it is.

What is Net Neutrality?

The first question is the easiest, in that we can answer it with a single sentence, straight from the dictionary. Net neutrality means that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

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Same As I told you in the paragraph before, Net neutrality means that governments and internet service providers treat all data on the internet equally and does not differentially charge consumers for higher-quality delivery or giving preferential treatment to certain websites.

How does it affect you?

Without net neutrality rules in place, ISPs(Internet service provider) like Jio, Airtel, Vodafone, and BSNL can prevent users from visiting some websites, provide slower speeds for services like Netflix, Alexa Ranking and HotStar, or even redirect users from one website to a competing website. Net neutrality rules prevent this by requiring ISPs to connect users to all lawful content on the internet equally, without giving preferential treatment to certain sites or services.

In the absence of net neutrality, companies can buy priority access to ISP customers. Larger, wealthier companies like Google or Facebook can pay ISPs to provide faster, more reliable access to their websites than to potential competitors. This could deter innovative start-up services that are unable to purchase priority access from the ISPs. Also, if ISPs can charge online services to connect to consumers, consumers would ultimately bear these additional costs (for example, on their monthly Netflix, HotStar bill or in the cost of products from a local online store).

Currently, there are in India:-

  • The NO rules preventing blocking of the website, services, or content online
  • NO rules preventing throttling or slowing down of website or services online
  • They NO rules preventing paid prioritization where broadband providers give preferential treatment to some websites and services over others

No Net Neutrality in the Philippines

When you subscribe to a mobile internet plan in the Philippines, you get a monthly allotment of data, much like you do anywhere else. However, you can get around these caps by taking on another plan that removes certain sites from your limit. The pic below should explain a little better.

Indian ISPs and Net Neutrality

Thing is, for many people the internet is just another way to make money. And not just in the way of writing up reviews or selling books. For internet service providers it’s a commodity that they can sell. You subscribe to a plan, they give you the web: simple as that. A smart CEO, however, is always on the lookout for new ways in which they can maximize revenue and profit.

When it comes to ISPs, Indian ones are particularly predatory, for instance with the lobbying efforts they have put in to make your data a commodity. In a similar vein, the idea has come around to start putting a price on the ability to access certain sites, not just having the internet.

For example,

you could purchase a regular plan from an ISP that has a speed of 10Mbps. Much like you do now, but instead of that applying to all sites, it only applies to some. Some sites, especially ones that guzzle bandwidth like streaming sites, would require that either you, the customer. Buy a special plan that covers the same speeds for it or would make the service itself make a deal with the ISP.

Future of Net Neutrality in India

Of course, this is the mild version of a net neutrality-free future: it could also become more like cable. Where you pay for a basic subscription allowing you to use email or something, but every other site will cost you extra. If you don’t pay up, no Netflix, Hotstar, Youtube, for you. The possibilities only limited by corporate imagination, which throws up some nasty scenarios.

All this would be, of course, blatantly unfair on several levels. First off, it would be a reversal of the way we do business now. Which we have grown to know and love. To change it now, without a proper reason (more on that in a bit), runs counter to the way the internet has developed.

It’s also unfair because people who are already paying for internet access — most plans are perfectly affordable, of course, but they aren’t exactly cheap, either — would have to pay more just to access Facebook or Instagram. As this may very well be the main reason people get the internet in the first place. It seems a little odd to charge them extra just to be able to access certain parts of it.

As an example,

We’ll take the 299 plan, which gets us a measly 1.5GB (compare that to your monthly usage over WiFi), and access to three sites from a pre-approved list. This may seem like an okay deal at first until you realize that all those sites are entertainment sites. To keep from hitting your cap, you’re likely to only use those sites and minimize your use of others.

As this article points out, having the caps set relatively low and only non-news sites freely accessible. You’re narrowing the stream of information people receive and thus constricting public debate. On top of that, you’re also choking startups. Which an economy like that in India desperately needs to get people to work in this digital age.

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What started the debate around net neutrality in India?

Facebook’s big advertisement campaign for its Free Basics app that gives users selective access to services like communication, healthcare, education, job listings, and farming information — all without data charges – triggered the debate on net neutrality. For this move, Facebook was criticized for handpicking internet services. They for discriminating against companies, not in the list, including Facebook’s rivals.

What is India’s position on net neutrality?

Last year, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) backed net neutrality and barred operators from allowing differential pricing for data in India. It said that no service provider will offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services. They on the basis of content or enter into any arrangement. Agreement or contract with any person that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data.

However, it is feared that scrapping of the net neutrality rules in the US sets a dangerous precedent for other countries like India where emboldened regulators could pursue similar routes.

Timeline of events Net Neutrality in India

  1. April 2015:- The issue of Net Neutrality gained popularity in India after Facebook planned to launch and push. Its Free Basic program in the market. Teleco Airtel also planned to launch something similar called Airtel Zero in India. Internet activists opposed these, calling them a blatant violation of Net Neutrality. The issue would then rage on for most of 2015
  2. July 2015:- The Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT’s) Net Neutrality report was issued, which said that the core principles of NN had to “adhered”. It also said that a user’s rights on the Internet need to be protected
  3. February 2016:- TRAI issued its ‘Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016’ order. Which was seen as the first victory for Net Neutrality in India? The order declared all data services which provided access to some websites for free as illegal
  4. January 2017:- TRAI had invited public views on the net neutrality issue to finalize a framework. “The purpose of this second stage of consultation. It is to proceed towards the formulation of final views on policy or regulatory interventions. Where required, on the subject of NN,” TRAI had said
  5. November 2017:- In November 2017, TRAI had recommended its thoughts on Net Neutrality and upheld the basic principles that ISPs. TSPs (Telecom Service Providers) must treat all data packets the same, and not discriminate on the basis of content

The order said that TSPs or service providers cannot charge differently for data services based on content. The order effectively ended Facebook’s Free Basics ambitions in India. It also made Airtel Zero or any special data packs for a particular app or website as illegal

TRAI chairman told:-

Discriminatory pricing, throttling, blocking on the basis of content was not to be allowed, according to TRAI’s recommendations. Fast-landing of any apps, websites or web services was also seen as against the principle of Net Neutrality. The recommendations followed a consultation process that lasted for over a year. “No one owns the Internet, so it should be open and accessible to everyone. Service providers have the power of becoming gatekeepers of the Internet but they should not indulge in doing so with this important platform,” TRAI chairman R S Sharma had told The Indian Express at the time.

What is Future of Net Neutrality in India, and how does it affect you?
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