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What is Net neutrality? |Stuff one should know

The issue of net neutrality is raised by Mr. Rahul Gandhi in the Parliament. Maybe, after he spoke, many of us have tried understanding the funda of net neutrality!I am trying to put forth this issue in simple words. In case I have missed any points, please add them in the comments section.


What is net neutrality? It is not hard to understand. It means continuing the same way we use internet today. If you get a broadband connection from the internet service provider (ISP), say from Airtel or BSNL, you can connect the net and browse the websites of your choice. For example, you can visit Amazon site and buy goods, you can connect Skype and talk to people, search on Google or Bing the way you like. There is no restriction by the service provider to access any sites. Similarly, whether the service provider is Airtel or BSNL, doesn’t matter. As long as you have the net connection, you can do all legally permitted things. This is net neutrality.


This concept of free/openness platform has created global oneness. Anybody from anywhere is allowed to express his view about any topic of his choice. Thus net neutrality has enabled a level playing field for all in the internet. Google with tons of money can publish an article/video or even a poor man can publish using a cybercafé, without any difference! Everyone is equal when it comes to internet. What an idea Sirji! Isn’t it? 


So, what the problem now? Why has Mr. Rahul Gandhi spoken about it in the Parliament?


Issue # 1 – The service providers like Airtel or Vodaphone or other ISPs, etc., will get the benefit if there is no net neutrality. They can make benefits in two ways. They can ask the companies like Youtube or flipkart, etc to pay a fee or a charge to provide free connection to the consumers, if the consumer opts for their broadband connection. So, those who pay more will get privileges such as higher bandwidth to their apps. Secondly, they can charge an extra fee to the consumers, like the way TV cable connection works. If a consumer wants Skype, he has to pay Rs.50 extra per month as broadband charges! (Similar to packaged plans of digital TV).


Issue # 2 – Why consumers are opposing: now you know why Rahul spoke in the Parliament. Is it not true that the country needs net neutrality? Don’t I and you need full access to internet after having paid broadband connection charges? Should our access be regulated by ISP to make money for them? This is what Rahul meant when he said “curving internet for the benefit of corporates at the cost of young Indians”


Issue # 3 – Why young entrepreneurs’ are opposing: If there is no level playing field, the young budding entrepreneurs can’t reach out to the masses.  Even the large companies like Google, Flipkart or Facebook could reach the mass, because of net neutrality. These companies started small, thanks to level playing field (net neutrality) they have achieved what they are today. Suppose a young team at Bangalore wants to try something new, but fails to get registered with ISP for free reach, they can’t succeed. So, obviously, they are opposing move of regulated traffic.


Issue # 4 – What is TRAI trying to do?

The credit for the sudden surge of this issue should go to TRAI. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which regulates the telecom industry, so far has not laid any rules regarding net neutrality in the country.  They tried doing so in 2006 but couldn’t finalize the rules.


On March 27, TRAI put up a consultation paper on its website asking users to give their views on net neutrality in India. The document is around 30 pages (mostly complicated write ups) followed by 20 questions. The last day to submit the reply is 24th April 15. This is when the social activism picked up. Over 1 million people responded to this questionnaire, asking the government not to dilute the net neutrality.


Why this government is keeping quite? This government is trying to do multiple things and looks like they are getting confused and de-focused. There are multiple burning issues which need to be addressed in priority. There are multiple schemes which they have announced in the last couple of months which needs focused attention. But leaving these things, why on earth the government is getting into another controversial issue, (an issue which the whole internet user community is opposing) and earning bad name? Why can’t they ask TRAI to scrap the questionnaire straight away?The kind of time and energy wasted about this issue by the citizens is mind boggling.


Hello government, time to intervene and put the discussion to rest. (Note: The ministry has set up a committee to give its report on net neutrality on 9th May 2015)


Thought for the day

The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work unless it is open.



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About CA Prasad Chartered Accountant

CA Prasad Chartered Accountant
CA Prasad is a practicing Chartered Accountant and partner in Bangalore -based CA Firm. For further information or query, please email it to [email protected]