Be it social media, news, or even general discussions, nothing seems to be of more interest to the people than the raging hot topic of “Net Neutrality”. I am sure you must have understood the concept, thanks to the creative minds out there who are using every possible medium to convey the message.
People across India are trying their best at getting net neutrality implemented, as its absence poses a great threat to our internet expenses. Business Standard reported recently that “e-commerce major Flipkart pulled out of discussions with the Bharti group for joining Airtel Zero”. While this may appear to be a publicity stunt for maintaining visibility with the masses, it does support the notion of getting net neutrality implemented by TRAI in India.
In light of these debates on net neutrality, almost every new initiative is being looked upon in a sceptical manner because the current scenario provides no legal restrictions for services / companies who wish to exploit the regulatory loophole by providing preferential services to those who can afford it. One such initiative which is being criticized by the public is Internet.org (a Facebook-led initiative which plans on bringing 5 billion people online in partnership with tech giants like Samsung and Qualcomm).
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Chief, has explicitly shared that “Internet.org can co-exist with net neutrality.” One of the main reasons behind the rising concerns is the partnership between Internet.org and RCom for providing free internet access to the masses. It should be considered as an emergency service for the internet (similar to the concept of calling 100 in India to contact the authorities even when you are out of calling balance). While Mark’s statement has definitely given a ray of hope to the Indians with respect to adherence to net neutrality principles, but is the situation really as simple as it sounds?
(Screenshot depicting the possible monopolization of free internet access by RCom. Source: internet.org)
As is pretty evident in the screenshot presented above, Reliance is using the free internet access offered by Internet. org to increase its own subscriptions. This is a nice move when considered from the business perspective. However it does indicate a violation of the norms of net neutrality. Don’t you think? Many free internet activists have also supported this claim.
Apparently, RCom’s partnership with Facebook (for Internet.org) will provide free access to 33 websites. In order to qualm all of the rising issues, Mark stepped in to tackle all the questions that were put forth. He said, “For people who are not on the Internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all. That’s why programmes like Internet.org are important and can co-exist with net neutrality regulations.”
In light of such heated arguments and serious speculations, the Indian Government has decided to intervene and take a firm step towards addressing the issues at hand. Economic Times reported that “Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has put up the issue for public feedback with the last date for submitting comments being April 24 and counter comments May 8.”
Have you signed the petition yet? If not, then don’t forget to sign it before 24th April or else you could suffer the wrath of greedy telecom companies who intend to take every penny from you! Save the internet!
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