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    Today's Dose: Understanding Net Neutrality

    Understanding "Net Neutrality"

    In plain simple words “net neutrality” implies that the Internet Service Providers (ISP), like Airtel,
    Vodafone, etc will provide their customers (net users) with unrestricted and equal access to all lawful
    websites and services available on the net, up to the limit of data usages plan subscribed to by the net
    user, without giving any priority to any of the websites’ over the others.

    The controversy about the issue of “net neutrality” is about the proposal, said to have been mooted by
    Airtel, under which Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had asked for views on a
    “Consultation Paper” prepared by it.

    This Consultation Paper had obliquely suggested the removal of “Net Neutrality” and proposes to allow the ISP to block apps and websites and restrict their availability as a paid service to the customers.

    This development is supposed to have happed due to an intense lobbying by the telecom operators to
    enable them to extort more money from the consumers and businesses.

    Salient Features of Net Neutrality
    • Equal and unrestricted access to all lawful sites.
    • Same speed of access for all subscribers of all apps and websites at the level of telecom/ ISP.
    • Non discriminatory data cost per KB/MB for access to every site.
    • No censorship or selective access to any information available on the net.
    • No preferential treatment for any particular website in terms of speeding up its access, or making
    • some sites free over others.

    Contentions of the Telecom Operators on the Issue

    Telecom operators obtain licence from the government to provide the channel for various networks and applications. They are required to pay Entry Fee, License Fee and Spectrum Usage Charges, and have regulations regarding quality of service; tariff and consumer protection regulations.

    Revenue paid to the government is based on the size and the bandwidth of the spectrum bought by them and they in turn make money primarily from data usage by the consumers (individuals and enterprises).

    Till some years back networks were built around specific applications, say voice, internet or Pay TV, i.e.voice, message and video content. And telecom operators used to charge for the data usage for these services.

    The procedure that was being adopted was that if a consumer bought an app/ content, the telecom
    operators did the billing and the content provider had to depend on the telecom operator for its revenue share from the amount collected by the telecom operator.

    In the recent times, major source of traffic on the net has shifted to Google, Yahoo, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia.org etc, which are not owned by the telecom operators.

    Also, because of the computerization of the banking system, the telecom operators’ have no control over the billing and the Internet businesses can easily bill directly through Internet banking.Hence, the revenue being collected by the telecom operators has declined phenomenally.

    Further, the system of auction of the telecom spectrum has heightened the competition and resulted in
    reduction in their profit margins. Thus, the telecom operators’ have neither any control over the content nor on the billing of the apps and services being provided on the net and because of their declining profit margin they want that the net neutrality should be removed.

    Likely Consequences of Removal of Net Neutrality

    Telecom operators might discriminate against certain types of content and political opinions. This will hurt consumers and diminish innovation in apps and content spaces. 

    Cartel of telecom operators may degrade traditional internet access to force apps and content providers to use the telecom operator’s new "premium" services. They may impose this through discriminatory pricing and give incentives to favour their own services, applications, and content and to kill competing services.

    Telecom operators may compete for contents by charging different fees for different content providers (e.g. Google, Flip kart, etc), which will result in certain content being available only with certain telecom operators, causing fragmentation of the internet.

    Telecom operators will curtail the freedom of expression and right to information by restricting the access to the internet by the consumers. 

    Telecom Operators with their innate market power will endeavour to have exclusive tieups with an established App. The ability of smaller and startup Apps to compete with established Apps will be adversely affected and may deter startups from joining the market.

    Finally, if the net neutrality will be removed, Internet access will become costlier.

    So, It is very important to understand the Net Neutrality".

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    Item Reviewed: Today's Dose: Understanding Net Neutrality Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Pradeep Singh
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