NEW DELHI: With massive campaigns running on social media against telecom operators charging differential pricing for internet usage, the government has set up an expert committee to look into the issues of ‘net neutrality’, which will submit its report by second week of May.
In January, some operators charged extra money for voice call services like Skype and Viber, which triggered the Department of Telecom to constitute a six-member high level committee on the issue of ‘net neutrality’ headed by A K Bhargava. The other members include A K Mittal, Shashi Ranjan Kumar, Uma Shankar, Narendra Nath and RM Aggarwal.
Batting for ‘net neutrality’, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that internet is one of the finest creations of the human mind and it is a property of the entire human race and not of any country or society.
“Internet to become entirely global should have a link to local and when we talk of digital inclusion it must be available to the underprivileged and on the margins,” Prasad said.
Telecom regulator TRAI is holding wide consultations on the issue and its report is also awaited.
“We have asked the expert committee to give a report by the second week of May,” Prasad said.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on March 27 put up a consultation paper on its website seeking public views on net neutrality by April 24. Till date, over 1.5 lakh have responded, supporting the campaign to save net neutrality.
With no proper framework and regulatory guidelines at present, the operators can charge according to their will. While the government is waiting for its committee’s report, any operator who violates the ‘net neutrality’ can get away with it at the moment.
If telecos have their way, they can not only interfere with your web browsing choices but can also force you to pay more.
“This is being done in order to promote their own apps and content, which are currently limited. Since they do not have services that they can fetch them big revenues, they want to charge for those that are already popular with consumers,” a telecom analyst with ICRA Ratings told Express.
The idea of net neutrality or free and equal Internet to all has garnered wide attention from across the globe.
Countries like the US, Chile, the Netherlands and Brazil have already adopted ‘net neutrality’ that doesn’t allow discrimination of internet content or charge users differently based on the content, site, or platform they consume.
The major bone of contention against net neutrality is Airtel’s Zero plan, which seeks to offer higher bandwidth to applications and websites whose owners are paying extra money. The plan is being heavily criticised by people across India.
So far, Indians have free access to internet and to browse the sites and access whatever information they require. Net neutrality works on the principle that internet service providers and government should treat all legal data on the internet equally without giving undue advantage to anyone.
your free internet access under threat
Telecom operators like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Reliance, who together purchased spectrum at a massive Rs 1.7 lakh crore last month, want to be internet gatekeepers and charge you more for accessing websites and services at an extra cost
India’s mobile subscriber base is over 900million
■ Net neutrality (NN) is nothing but keeping the internet open and free
■ Currently, users pay only for internet speeds and not for individual services like say Youtube or Twitter or Facebook
Why telcos do not want NN
■ There are two broad categories of internet services and apps - those who fall in direct competition with telcos and those that do not fall under the telecom licensing framework
■ Telcos want to monetise from the growing internet base and since a few are offering their own services and apps, now want to cash in on the existing services like Youtube or Twitter
What will change
■ For now, internet service providers (ISPs) pay telecos for hosting and connectivity and monetise via advertising or charging end users
■ Telcos will charge different fee for content
■ Without NN, telcos will charge ISPs based on prioritisation
■ Speed up some app traffic who pay priority fee and slow down those that do not pay
■ Block consumers from flexible internet access
■ Stifle innovation
■ Bias against types of content could hurt consumers
■ May lead to anti-competitive concerns
■ Internet access becomes expensive
■ Differential pricing structure
■ Telecos can block apps and services to maximise profits
■ Several countries including South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Netherlands, have either laid guidelines for Net Neturality or are in the process of doing so
■ In March, the US released new draft internet rules, which may take a few years to be finalised