Apropos of “Nobody owns the Net: Trai backs open access” (November 29), with the Federal Communications Commission in the US going for vote on December 14 to repeal the landmark 2015 rules on net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has made clear that equality with respect to internet availability and accessibility is here to stay in our country highlighting that India is miles ahead of the US. Net neutrality is the principle according to which ISPs (internet service providers) should treat all traffic on their networks equally. They cannot block or slow down the access to any website or content to benefit themselves. If the ISPs are made the sole “gatekeepers” of the internet regime they could control what a user can and cannot access, its speed of surfing the web, and they could even charge certain extra fees for some services.
It was in 2014 that the issue of net neutrality arose in India when Airtel announced it would charge its subscribers who use the OTT (over-the-top) services such as Skype, WhatsApp, etc. However, it led to a rage and the company had to withdraw the plan. Later Facebook came up with its “Free Basics” to hamper the free internet regime, but it too had to withdraw following sharp reactions from consumer groups and authorities. With the Digital India campaign in full swing, the Internet and Mobile Association of India issued its report in 2016 on the number of users in India. It highlighted that the penetration of internet in urban India is 51 per cent and in rural India it is merely 16 per cent. If there would have been no net neutrality, the above statistics would witness an increasingly downward trend as there is more harm to consumers than gains to the ISPs.
Ankita Kalia Chandigarh
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