Net Neutrality – A boon or a curse?
Should the Internet be shackled? That’s the question people and institutions across the world have been trying to answer for the past few days. Granted, Net Neutrality as a concept is quite old; the term was coined in 2003 by Tim Wu, a Columbia University Media Law professor. It has gained strong momentum in recent times what with the possibility of the Internet becoming a crippled medium.
What Net Neutrality means
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in a recent consultation paper asked the Indian populace whether the Internet needs to be regulated. An open Internet allows you to communicate freely online, whereas an Internet that is regulated limits this and communication will suffer. So what exactly is Net Neutrality? Net Neutrality is an idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments must treat all data on the Internet equally and no discriminations should be made based on content, user, site, platform, application and mode of communication.
Over the years, the Internet has been based on the principle of data equality, which has made this medium a level playing field. If ISPs start charging users for a handful of these services or are biased towards another handful, this level playing field will be unbalanced. Earlier, ISPs did not control the traffic that passed through their servers. Users visiting any website would be able to do so at the same Internet speeds. Net Neutrality has also enabled people to create websites online without having to invest a lot of money or having a lot of connections. This has led to the creation of websites like Facebook, Google, Twitter and many others. All of these websites have had modest beginnings but Net Neutrality enabled users to access these websites in an unobstructed way, helping them become a few of the most visited websites today.
Why we need Net Neutrality
Without Net Neutrality, the Internet as we know it is as good as obsolete. This is why the global population is so worried about it being obstructed. If there is no Net Neutrality, ISPs will have the power to shape Internet traffic the way they want to in order to gain extra benefits from it. For instance, many ISPs believe that services like YouTube and Netflix must be charged as they consume more bandwidth as compared to normal websites. These ISPs would expect a share of the money that these websites make. Another disadvantage of using the Internet without Net Neutrality is that users will have to opt for package plans instead of free access. There could also be different speeds for different types of content based on the type of package you’ve opted for or on how much you are paying for the service.
Will Net Neutrality survive?
There are no hard and fast rules about Net Neutrality in India. It’s been a sort of norm since the Internet took off. Now that the Internet has become such an important part of the social fibre, ISPs want to take control of its functioning and benefit from it. As of now, the only way we can protect Net Neutrality is by demanding that the Internet be allowed to be free and open, which is exactly what people globally are trying to do. To save the Internet in India, emails were sent to TRAI in the form of answers to the questions asked by TRAI in its consultation paper. TRAI has received about a million emails on Net Neutrality, making it the biggest response that was ever received for a social campaign.
What are your thoughts about Net Neutrality? Do you think our efforts to save the Internet will be successful?