Should your data provider have the freedom to allow faster access to movies on Netflix as compared to say, your FaceTime calls? Should they be allowed to discriminate between any kind of content at all? Or should they merely be the owners of the pipe who don’t interfere – or make money off what goes through the pipe? What if the pipe is a telecom network? And we, as users, start using inexpensive data to make phone calls that cut into the telecom networks’ core business.
These are some of the issues around Net Neutrality.
At one level, we could approach net neutrality as an issue. After all, someone is taking away our right to choose. The UN declared in 2016, that access to the Internet was a basic human right. On the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg, while defending the “Free Basics” program in India, said, “It’s not an equal internet if the majority of people can’t participate”. The program offered free access to Wikipedia, BBC, health and weather sites. And Facebook, of course.
At another level, business models are being disrupted. And telecom providers who are the owners of the pipe, often with huge investments, cannot sustain the infrastructure with falling prices of data, the shift of voice to VOIP calls, and smaller wireless internet providers.
Net neutrality is in the news because Ajit Pai, the head of the FCC in the US, is likely to lift the 2015 Open Internet Order, which allowed some form of net neutrality. In February 2016, the TRAI in India barred telecom service providers from charging differential rates for data services (thus prohibiting Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero platforms).
What do you think? Are you in favour of net neutrality? Or should service providers be allowed to manage internet access as a business without regulation?