Net Neutrality: What Industry Leaders Are Saying
Call it Net neutrality, free Internet or open Internet. They all mean the same: Free access to the Internet, irrespective of company, service or content. That is what is in practice in India currently, but now, The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to formulate new guidelines to check net neutrality.
If TRAI has its way, it would change the way Internet is used or consumed. The telcos can have differential charges for Internet use. Airtel, a mobile network operator in India, has announced it is working with local startups to create a platform where startups can pay for data usage, making their services free for users.
TRAI has sought opinions from people about net neutrality in India. The last day for netizens to send their views to Trai is April 24. People are posting their views on savetheinternet.in.
CXOToday asked some industry leaders and experts as what they thought about TRAI’s move. Here are their opinions:
“As someone who has founded 3 start-ups and worked at two large companies after they acquired my first 2 start-ups, I can claim a bit of perspective on both sides of this debate. Start-ups are the ones potentially building the next big disruptive technology, but the large companies are scaling and reaching out with proven apps to hundreds of millions of users. The big enterprises have the muscle to grab the available “airtime” and make sure their’s is the voice that people hear. That being said, the internet is the one channel where the upstart start-up can compete on merit and in some cases win against the might of the larger player, with the decision being taken by the consumers. This is like democracy at work – so keep the internet free and equal for everyone, big or small, and may the best candidate win.”
- Shirish Deodhar, CEO & Co-Founder, Sapience Analytics
“The idea of Net neutrality is based on the fundamentals of an open Internet that works on a concept of free content available without bias to every individual who wants to use the net. To limit net neutrality would be to limit new innovative ventures which benefit largely from the openness of the internet.”
- Mahesh Nayak, Chief Operating Officer, SAP Labs India
“Net neutrality, as a concept, is integral to the growth of the digital economy and a cornerstone if ‘Digital India’ is to be a reality. However, what it means in the throes of the details and technicalities is where the rubber hits the road. If it were indeed such a one sided debate then there would have been many more than the 3-4 countries who would have legalized it by now – the truth is that there is an alternate view also that exists, that of the telco providers. It is important that all parties – consumers, government, telco providers, impacted organizations – come together to formalize a set of rules and guidelines that are workable.”
- Rajiv Gupta, Partner and Director, The Boston Consulting Group.
“Airtel Zero seems like an innovative solution to bring Internet to every person. Whether this is on a firm footing will be decided by the actual implementation. The current way of individual companies buying Internet for their consumers is a slippery slope. The right way to do it would be through a central consortium formed from the ecommerce companies and who has the interests of both the startups in this sector and the end users in mind. After all, Internet is all about freedom of choice. Keeping that in mind, currently it would be free only if you use a particular company that makes it free at the cost of the freedom of choice it offers. This is everyone’s loss.”
- YogendraVasupal, Founder and CEO, Stayzilla.com
“Every citizen has the right to access, as internet has become a basic necessity today. The differentiation of access should not be based on either content, website, application or users. On that particular platform, we should not discriminate. Whether it makes business or profit sense, no enterprise can force a differentiated access. But when it comes to telecom providers, network across the world has been created by them including India. As the internet has evolved now, there are many apps which are riding on their network, perhaps the telecom companies are not the beneficiary of that particular usage; so they have the right to it and we cannot take away that right from them. But just because of that whether we should be differentiating a user or a site or a content, I don’t think it is correct.”
- MilindKamat, CEO, Atos
“Lack of Net neutrality supports a monopolistic market which will adversely affect the growing start-up eco-system. While heavily funded businesses will be able to maintain their supremacy over consumers start-ups will stand to lose out heavily. We do not support discrimination of any sorts when it comes to consumer’s access to information.”
- Kashyap Vadapalli, CMO, Pepperfry.com
“A customer should be free to surf the internet without any discrimination towards any website or service. By rejecting net neutrality telcos will play the gatekeeper to a valuable resource. It could also mean that it becomes costlier to use certain applications. Most importantly, it could endanger the very feature of the Internet that has over the years made it possible for countless start-ups and entrepreneurs. Undouedly the Internet has disrupted the world of business like no other technology has in recent years. It has helped the cashstrapped SMEs and start-ups. If we do not create awareness and stand up on this we will be shutting the door on the entrepreneurial aspirations of hundreds and risk millions of users using the medium.”
- Rishab Bailey, Research Analyst, ThoughtWorks
“We stand for Net Neutrality as it’s absence will result into emergence of monopolies or oligopolies which will be unfair to small and budding entrepreneurs. It would be a shame if the next big disruptive innovation is extinguished because of discrimination or deferential charges by user, content, site, platform, application, etc. It’s commendable that the government has taken up the issue seriously and set up a committee to study the issues related to net neutrality and the consumer opinions. We hope the decisions are made in the favour of budding entrepreneurs and consumers alike. The government needs to actively engage with telecom companies to ensure a level playing field.”
- Sameer Parwani- CEO & Founder, CouponDunia.in
“These recommendations will be disadvantageous rather than being conducive to start-ups as they will not be able to match up to the premium paid by large companies to service providers . This will ultimately lead to monopolization of very few established ventures and push out start-ups in their nascent stages. It will take away the power of innovation from budding start-ups and will restrict them from exploring the ever-growing potential of internet. From consumers’ point of view, it is extremely necessary to give them freedom of choice in order to create a developed digital ecosystem.”
- Rahul Golecha, Co-Founder, Videogram
“The selective and differential pricing levied by the Telcos/ISPs will definitely take a hit on India’s emerging digital economy. While rural India is still getting used to internet –based services for financial inclusion such as mWallets and online banking, the decision to monetize all web based apps will directly impact this part of the economy. Overall, all consumers of web-based services will become entirely dependent on their Internet service provider for access to basic web-based apps that were earlier free.”
- Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and Group CEO, Greyhound Research
“Discriminating access to services - whether it is positive discrimination or negative - will only help incumbents. We think consumers should use a site or app based on the quality of service provided, not how much money the site/app has been able to pony up to pay an ISP/telco. At Spuul, we think there’s a great number of areas - billing, advertising etc. being some of them, where we can partner with telcos on revenue opportunities. However, from a service access standpoint - it needs to be a level playing field for everyone concerned”—Subin Subaiah , CEO – Spuul Global
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