Net Neutrality In India And Why It Matters

by CXOtoday News Desk    Apr 13, 2015


There have been a lot of noise about ‘Net neutrality’ in the last few days. It’s not just another technical jargon as many would think. It is so significant that it will change the way we use Internet forever. The reason it has come in the limelight is because – until now we have enjoyed the Internet in a certain pattern. At present telcos want to charge for the Internet differently, based on how we use it. However, Internet is omnipresent and should not be controlled. Therefore there is a need to understand why net neutrality matters. Here’s a look.

What is Net Neutrality?

The concept of network neutrality comes from the idea that the users mobile, cable, or phone internet connection should provide access to all websites and online traffic in ‘neutral’ and ‘equal’ manner, without giving priority to any other website. In simpler terms, Net Neutrality is the Internet’s guiding principle that “preserves our right to communicate freely online”. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is mulling to form proper guidelines regarding net neutrality. Till today, India has no laws governing net neutrality. Even though the internet had been neutral and unregulated since 1998, in 2006, TRAI had invited opinions regarding the regulation of net neutrality from various telecom industry bodies and stakeholders.

Why is net neutrality essential?

Net neutrality ensures that free and open internet drives ISP competition, helps prevent unfair pricing practices, promotes innovation, drives entrepreneurship and most importantly protects freedom of speech.

Freedom of connection with any application to any party is the fundamental social basis of the internet. And now, is the basis of the society built on the internet, said Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the world wide web and opened it to the world instead of selling to a selected companies for the sake of making money.

Today, with net neutrality, freedom to access is retained whatever we want to search on Google, and make contacts on social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and countless other services.

What if there is no internet Neutrality?

In simple words, we have to deal with an extremely slow internet speed. This means that it will change the way you used to access internet, with lots of blockages. “It also means that the ISPs will charge more if you want to watch videos on YouTube and there would be “package plans”, that will turn out to be extremely pricey,” said telecom analyst Gaurav Kumar. There will be add-on charges to access international websites. In contrast, if you do not pay have to go through slow internet speed.

“Changes in the architecture of the Internet- both legal and technical- are sapping the Internet of this power,” said noted author and activist Lawrence Lessig. “Fueled by bias in favor of control, pushed by those whose financial interest favor control, our social and political institutions are ratifying changes in the Internet that will re-establish control, in turn, reduce innovation on the Internet and in society generally.”

There have been examples of net neutrality violations in the past, when the Internet service provider Comcast intentionally slowed peer-to-peer communications. In 2007, one other company was using deep packet inspection to discriminate against peer-to-peer, file transfer protocol, and online games, instituting a cell-phone-style billing system of overages, free-to-telecom value-added services, and bundling.

How to help net neutrality survive?

Net neutrality has survived so far because few people realized the potential of internet when it took off nearly 30 years ago. But now when the internet is an integral part of the society, ISPs across the world are trying to get the power to shape and control the traffic. “There are ways to keep net neutrality alive. Consumers should demand that ISPs continue their hands-off approach from the internet traffic. If consumers see a violation of net neutrality, they ought to take a proactive approach and register their displeasure with the ISP. They should also reward ISPs that uphold the net neutrality,” said Kumar.

Is it time for us to act?

People from all over India have raised their voices to keep Net neutrality alive and now its each one of our turn too.

TRAI on March 27 put up a consultation paper on its website asking users to give their views on net neutrality in India. The last day for netizens to send their views to Trai on the subject is April 24. Indians have sent over 1 lakh emails to TRAI over the issue through the website: Let TRAI know that you need Net neutrality and defend the Internet freedom. 

You could also sign this petition over at…