It is India's turn to protect the Web
During Christmas 2014, Airtel started charging users extra for making VOIP calls using Viber on their network. Within days they went back on this move because the public were quick to notice that this action violates the principles of Net Neutrality and stated their annoyance on social media.
Months before this, Telecom Service Providers (TSP) had started giving out special data packs that make access to services like WhatsApp, Facebook, or Wikipedia at different rates than access to other websites on the Internet. Unknown to many people, this also violates the principles of Net Neutrality.
So what is Net Neutrality?
It is the concept that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, with no discrimination being made in speed or cost based on the type of data or its sender. The Web is an open, opportunity filled, free space because of Net Neutrality.
But the Telecom companies seem to be hell bent on breaking this principle. That is why they forced the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to come out with a "Consultation Paper
on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) services" on 27th March.
In this heavily biased document, TRAI asks 20 questions, most with the implicit assumption that some form of regulation should be brought up on websites. You can read the whole 118 pages here
, or read an abridged version made by some folks on the Internet here
. Their suggestions include licensing of OTT services and allowing the TSPs to discriminate data traffic.
Why should we act?
It is easy to see how any deviation from Net Neutrality is detrimental to the growth and diversity of the Internet. For example, if websites have to pay TSPs to reach their users, it might be okay for large corporations who are already earning a lot of money. But what will happen to the small startup that might one day become the next Facebook or the next Google?
Additionally, the techniques that will be employed by the telecom providers will pave way to surveillance, the effects of which, are chilling to free speech. India can take a lesson from the United States which recently made net neutrality an enforceable regulation thus preventing any unfair practices by Internet Service Providers.
What should we do?
As a proponent of the Open Web, Mozilla is a stakeholder in this issue and we urge all supporters and well-wishers of a free and fair Internet to send (like we did) your responses to the questions and proposals by TRAI to the address firstname.lastname@example.org