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Leila Badyari

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What is Net Neutrality and why is it important?

on May 13, 2015

what is net neutrality#SaveTheInternet has been trending on various social media platforms, leading many of us to question “what is Net Neutrality and how does it affect me?” Also, “why does the internet need saving?”

In order to understand that, let’s first take a look at the concept of Net Neutrality : What does it mean? Why is it important?

Imagine a regular morning…you wake up…grab your phone, go straight to the Facebook app (you want to know how many people liked your latest profile picture), but as soon as you try to view your Facebook profile you’re denied access! You think it’s a glitch in the network and you’ll check on it later. You head to WhatsApp… (Those funny morning texts your best friend sends you just makes your day!)…but again…you can’t access the app! A message pops up on your screen, informing you that you don’t have access to these apps, because you don’t have the right data package….

What is neutraity

This is what the internet will turn into without Net Neutrality. It means that you will not be able to access your favourite websites or apps unless you have purchased an additional data package which supports the use of these services.

Various apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter are collectively referred to as Over the Top Services (OTTS) by internet service providers (ISPs).Net Neutrality provides an equal platform for all internet services, in a way that each service can be accessed without restrictions. In the absence of Net Neutrality ISPs can charge consumers for access to OTTS, international sites, apps or other internet services.

What is Net Neutrality?

The answer to the question “what is net neutrality?” can be further understood by considering the following principles of Net Neutrality

 No restrictions

principle of net neutrality

  • Under Net neutrality, an Internet user is free to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis, without restrictions from the Internet provider.
  • It means that the internet provider’s only job is to move data – not to choose which data to privilege  with higher quality service.
  • For Example, if you have an Airtel/Idea/Vodafone Connection on your mobile phone, and you get an  internet data pack of 1GB for one month, then you will be able to use all the APPs on your phone  without one being slower or faster. Similarly you can access search engines and email accounts  without any interference.
  • This is the essence of Net Neutrality. Free and uninterrupted service.

Open communication on the internet

principle of net neutrality

  • Net neutrality means that everyone can communicate freely on the internet.
  • With Net Neutrality in place, a service provider should allow access to all content and applications, regardless of the source and no websites or pages should be blocked, as long as they aren’t illegal.
  • It’s like a fixed-telephone line, which is equal to all, and no one gets to decide who you call or what you speak.

Free access to all sites/services

  • Net neutrality also means all web sites and content creators are treated equal, and you don’t have to pay extra for faster Internet speed to a particular site/service. For instance, currently, you have a standard data package and access all the content at the same speed, irrespective of whether it’s an Indian or international website. However, if Net Neutrality were eliminated, Internet service providers could charge extra for the free calls you make using services like WhatsApp, Skype and others.
  • The Norms of Net Neutrality dictate that Internet providers may not favour some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.”

No censorship

principle of net neutrality

  • Net Neutrality reduces the incidence of internet censorship. It has important implications for freedom of speech on the internet.
  • Under Net Neutrality you can voice your opinions on social media without the fear of being blocked or banned.
  • If Internet service providers manage the data that is transmitted via the internet, they will have the authority to scrutinize this data and decide whether something should be banned or intercepted.
  • For example, China is one of the countries where internet access is restricted by Government censors. As a result, Chinese Internet service providers (ISPs) block access to a number of sites banned by the government. In addition, specific search terms are red flagged – type them into Google and you’ll be blocked from the search engine for 90 seconds.

State of Net Neutrality in India

It is easy to imagine that the internet will always remain the free and open medium it is now. We’d like to believe it will remain a place where we can always access any lawful content we want. Furthermore, it constitutes a medium wherein the people delivering that content won’t play favorites because they disagree with the message being delivered, or want to charge more money for faster delivery. We owe this belief to Net Neutrality, which has created an unbiased platform where anybody can share content and expect it to be distributed equally.

However, In recent months, due to intense petitioning by telecom operators like Airtel and Vodafone, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) initiated a plan which would allow them to block apps and websites from consumers and businesses — a violation of net neutrality.

According to this initiative, the Indian government may allow telecom operators to speed up and slow down Internet traffic based on its source, ownership or target. In India, the internet provides a powerful platform for empowerment and development; elimination of net neutrality would diminish the role of the internet as an innovative tool.

The justification given by TRAI argues that applications such as Skype and WhatsApp are infringing on services from which telecom operators traditionally profited. According to TRAI, with the increasing popularity of internet applications which provide SMS and calling services, old-fashioned caller plans and SMS services have become increasingly redundant.

TRAI released a consultation paper with 20 questions spread across 118 detailed pages and requested consumers to send them an e-mail by 24th of April, 2015.

net neutrality in India

In response, millions of Indians united via Social Media, and bombarded the TRAI website with emails. Subsequently,  the ‘save the internet’ website was created, in order to provide more information regarding this issue.  Most people responded with antagonism and felt that their basic right to use the internet in an unbiased manner was being threatened.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think you would be better or worse off without Net Neutrality?

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