Business Standard

All you need to know about net neutrality

The basics, merits and demerits about the latest talked about issue

Bunty Thoidingjam  |  New Delhi 

The phrase 'net neutrality' has been in the news for some time and people are already debating its merits and demerits. Here are a few basic things you need to know about the issue.

What’s the concept?

implies that all internet-based sites and services should be treated equally, without any difference in terms of speed and cost of access. It is based on the concept that there are no specific rules, but internet service providers should follow the same principle.

What’s the issue with it?

In January, telecom operators asked the govt to bring over-the-top (OTT) players like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber under regulation, as these were making a dent in their revenues

Bharti Airtel came up with a plan to charge separately for internet-based voice calls provided by OTT players. There was huge public outcry in social media against such charges

After a month, the department of telecommunications formed a committee to examine the economic impact of implementing the net-neutrality principle on the telecom sector

In the first week of April, Airtel launched ‘Zero’, a plan under which 150 start-ups would join a Bharti Airtel platform where e-commerce and start-ups would pay Airtel so that users could access the internet for free

ALSO READ: DoT sets up committee for net neutrality

Experts argued that ‘Zero’ went against the principle of that required all devices to be standardised and offered at the same price

Airtel said it was a baseless argument and the platform did not differentiate among internet-based sites or services

ALSO READ: The Airtel Zero idea: Splitting India's Internet into many Internets

Following the furore, e-commerce giant Flipkart on Tuesday pulled out of talks to join Bharti’s ‘Zero’ platform

Why is it in the news?

Within 24 hours, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) received more than 27,000 emails through, calling for public consultation on the issue. An online petition on received nearly 150,000 endorsements to the idea that the government act against violation of for corporate interests

If both firms and users benefit from ‘Zero’, what is the problem?

If web-based companies pay an internet service provider (ISP) — for example, if Facebook pays an ISP so that users can access the social networking site for free — it will use up more internet bandwidth, thereby curtailing access to other sites or information. This might lead to discrimination of sorts and go against the concept of net neutrality

What would be the extreme?

If every firm pays ISPs for faster or easier accessibility — for corporate interests — the idea of accessing any information on internet, whether owned or published by an individual or a company, might slowly wane and certain web-based companies might monopolise the internet

Who are the supporters?

Many renowned individuals and websites have come in support of net neutrality. Among others, the controversial comedy group AIB came out with a video to support net neutrality and garnered more than one million views through viral sharing on social networking sites

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First Published: Mon, April 13 2015. 14:07 IST