Columbia University professor Tim Wu coined the term Net Neutrality in 2003, to describe the discrimination shown by internet service providers (ISPs) between web portals in terms of speed and access, which allowed them to charge according to their discretion and slow down P2P(peer to peer) public exchange in the US.
It is a fact that speedy, neutral access provided by ISPs to all lawful websites, without prioritization, has helped a lot in the fostering of knowledge and education, with freedom to exchange ideas. This case has been true in India as well.
However, recently, some of the ISP lobbies began exerting influence on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to allow them to block some websites and applications, which prompted the Trai to release a questionnaire on the matter that gives out certain suggestions and asks consumers to respond on it before April 24, 2015.
This Idea of “Internet Malls” formulated by ISPs and the telecom sector will give preferential access to few websites and undermine the larger public interest by reducing data quality and access speed of other websites. It is high time we demanded free and open internet and reject this concept of ‘VIP protocols’.
Here, the government is influenced by some IT companies whose ideas are sponsored by Western lobbyists. These companies are trying to sell these ideas as a matter of pride, prestige and development. This is very much against public interest. Already, after an agreement between Verizo, US Telecom and Google, Indian IT is under much pressure to adopt the policy of Mobile governance or m-governance, which would sell out all public information to corporate ISPs and suck the blood out of common man’s right to information, especially in the crucial fields of governance, justice, health and education.
In their negotiation with Trai, corporate ISPs are promoting the idea of Internet Free-for-All (or at least to those who can afford it). This supports the Western philosophy of ‘survival of the fittest’, which is inhuman and crazy.
Though internet is used for commercial purposes, it is also utilized highly in the democratic sphere of public interaction. Since all corporate ISPs and websites generate income through advertisements and royalties on the public platform, their proposal to steal this platform through imposing charges is unjustified.
Many companies in the world, including the leading search engine Google and the social networking site Facebook, has upstaged their competitors by using the idea of net neutrality. Now, by reversing the very same policy, they are trying to block free access to developing companies and young enterprises, which is unfair.
Morevoer, we cannot simply write off this issue as something that concerns just techies and IT companies. The issue affects all citizens and the government, and it is upon all of us to fight this growing web access discrimination.
Since information sharing on the internet is inherently global in nature, the transmission of information will eventually be decided on and standardised by developed nations, especially hegemonic countries like the US. Countries like India do not have much choice other than to give a regulatory framework to their ISPs that would correspond perfectly with the concept of Internet Mega Malls.
All ICT (Information and Communication Technology) system policies are designed under the supervision of big companies in the West and will promote Western products and services in their online malls.
Now, a regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) services already exists, but they need to be checked for violations. As far as the matter of regulating access speed is concerned, the government should take necessary steps that favour the common interest of citizens rather than leaving it in the hands of corporates, which would encourage monopoly.
Internet is a public resource and all telecom companies must have proper license to use this spectrum. But that does not necessarily give them the right to steal and discriminate among websites while giving out their services.
In case of any crisis or urgent need of traffic management, the ISPs must carry out necessary measures with full public awareness, so as to ensure transparency. On the other side, the government should have a proper auditing mechanism to keep watch and penalize any violation of regulations.
The questionnaire prepared by Trai gives a feeling that it is indirectly supporting corporate and mega internet malls, instead of proposing net neutrality guidelines that can prevent the infringement of common man’s interests.
The government needs to immediately step in and stop this game of the telecom industry, as this interim period before legalizing is consolidating corporate ambitions.
Imposition of a Net Neutrality Charter on mega internet malls is necessary to stop e-discrimination and prioritization of one party over the other.
INDIA ADVOCATES NET-NUTERALITY