By Gaurav Pradhan
‘Net Neutrality’, which caught people’s attention mostly because of Facebook trying to push the agenda of common people should have access to basic internet which would be free to use. It is trying to buy in the idea of satisfying people’s basic need of internet.
Some people supported it, some people disregarded it – but still Facebook kept people interested for this topic.
Here we will try to have a closer look to Net Neutrality, understanding what is actually Net Neutrality and its impact because of its success and failure.
Net Neutrality – Do we Understand it properly?
There has been many definitions trying to explain Net Neutrality. A simple way of describing Net-work Neutrality will be that it is an idea which talks about Internet Service Providers (ISPs) shall treat all the data travelling over their networks fairly, barring any kind of discrimination in favor of particular sites, apps or services – which is an underlying principle upholding the best interests for future of our open internet.
This principle needs safeguarding because many large companies have tried governing the internet, by bringing in restrictions like blocking, throttling, paid prioritization of internet traffic. Internet needs to be free to access for all because they are a platform fostering innovation & creativity. It should not bog down to any authority or any regulation which allows ISPs to act as gate keepers, making special deals in favor of some companies, which would act as a barrier for new competition, innovation & expression.
Facebook’s Stand on Net Neutrality – Introducing Free Basics
Facebook came up with an initiative of providing internet experience to most Indian people without any charge of tariffs, by providing them some free apps for use on a platform. It is called ‘Internet.org’. This platform aims to provide valuable free services which can be used to explore the plethora of online services, leading them to become informed and payer users of the Internet.
Because of this platform, Facebook has faced criticism because it is allegedly violating the Net Neutrality principle, making them a prioritized option for the users as service providers in terms of Internet Traffic Flow.
TRAI’s Stand on Net Neutrality & Free Basics
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on February 8th, supporting Net Neutrality, dismantling the idea of Facebook’s Free Basics. This regulatory body decided taking into consideration the responses of eight internet service provider associations, 15 service providers, 42 institutions & organizations, and some individuals.
TRAI sustained the fact that ‘prohibition of discriminatory tariff for data services is necessary to ensure that service providers continue to fulfill their obligations in keeping the internet open & non-discriminatory’.
This clearly means that no one provider will rule it all on the internet. This ruling has brought some more flare in the ongoing debate on Free Basics. There are people who are advocating Free Basics, telling that there is cartel activity going in to safe guard the interests of service providers. There are people who are against Free Basics, fearing that Facebook can take advantage of Free Basics and associated data in unprecedented ways.
Net Neutrality’s Future
Net Neutrality principle has been challenged multiple times by many companies and service providers to take advantage and earn some quick and easy money. But there have been many organizations which safeguard the best interest of the Internet and maintaining its integrity – making it free and available for everyone. Facebook might have a good reason for trying to on-board Free Basics, but if it is meddling with Net Neutrality, it will be subjected to scrutiny. There will be regulatory authorities who will always save the internet and maintain the Net Neutrality principle.
(I dedicate this blog to a special colleague, who urged me to write again after a long time – Varsha Rajsekar. Follow her @varsha_rajsekar)
10 things to know about Facebook’s Free Basics, net neutrality – Business Standard