Net Neutrality struggles in India

blog post 2

In my last blog post, I discuss the importance of Net Neutrality in today’s society. The internet is too important to be exploited. However, with the recent FCC legislation protection of Net Neutrality this country is one of the lucky ones in terms of internet freedoms. Some countries are not so lucky, and need to fight and rally for the right of Net Neutrality.

In India, there are 70 million users of the app Whatsapp, the most popular alternatives to conventional text messaging (Soni). Then, in 2014 Whatsapp creator Jan Koum introduced voice messaging saying “We want to make sure people always have the ability to stay in touch with their friends and loved ones really affordably.” This statement rejoices the citizens of India, but anger India’s telecom operators.

In retaliation India’s telecoms operators, said they wanted a revenue-sharing agreement with internet companies because they believed WhatsApp’s and others app like it would potentially cut profits. This will kill Net Neutrality and make telecom operators in charge of the way the internet grows. “On 27 March, the telecoms regulator released a ‘consultation paper’ in which it made a series of recommendations to deal with the growth of internet services and apps (Soni).” This long complicated full of jargon deal advocate the licensing of internet companies. So, they will two parts of the internet; one were the websites that brought the license and gain the gain privileges of faster internet speeds and no competition, and the others websites who don’t pay for these privileges will then be throttled or they will be made more expensive or even blocked.

Because this was a public consultation paper, Indians were asked to give their views on its recommendations to the telecoms regulator by 24 April. This was the time over 50 artists, journalists, techies and lawyers who started Save The Internet – an online campaign to preserve for Net Neutrality. There campaign was not going so great at first until 11 April, when AIB, a popular comedy troupe, made a video simplifying network neutrality and highlighting how the regulator’s recommendations could have a negative effect on internet usage in India. By April 24 millions of Indians railed demanded for “zero-rating” plans – or charging different prices for different services.

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However, these actions didn’t stop telecom operators like Airtel to start charging users an additional amount for calls made via apps like Skype and Viber, over and above the data packs they had subscribed to. These data packs “means a telco like Airtel could sign a deal with WhatsApp, offering it for free and slowing down, blocking access to or increasing the price of Apple’s iMessage service or similar third-party apps such as WeChat (Soni).” Indian activist are trying to fix this using contacting local officials, but is having a tough time.

The Net Neutrality issue is a global issue and if the world wants to move and excel in the 21st century Net Neutrality needs to be a constant. Aayush Soni the writer of this article about the India struggles with Net Neutrality said it best: “In a country rife with political, social and economic inequalities, the web is a liberating universe that flattens hierarchies, creates room for innovation and allows unadulterated and totally free expression of speech. It is a reason why some of India’s most successful startups also have called for the internet to be kept neutral.” Currently, USA, Brazil, Chile, the Netherlands, and the European Union have laws protecting Net Neutrality. When will the rest of the world follow in these pioneers footsteps?

Works cited

Soni, Aayush. “How People Power Took on Big Business in the Fight for Net Neutrality in India.” The Guardian. The Guardian News, 25 May 2015. Web. 13 July 2015.
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