What is Net Neutrality and why are we fighting over it?

Net Neutrality or Open Internet, in it’s most basic sense means Neutral Internet. Which means all Internet data should be treated equally. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Airtel/Vodafone should not charge us the consumers extra for a particular segment usage of the Internet.
An Open Internet means consumers can go where they want, when they want.

What is Net Neutrality?
Suppose I buy a 1 GB internet plan from Vodafone. Now I  have the freedom to use those 1 GB whichever way I deem fit. I can browse some websites, check Facebook or watch some videos over YouTube. I can even Skype my friend in the US as long as I have those 1024 Megabytes left.

What will happen if there is no Net Neutrality?
If there is no Net Neutrality, Internet would be controlled by all the telecom companies. They would have the “power” to regulate all the Internet usage. Like if I pay Rs. 250 now to have 1 GB usage of data, instead, it won’t work like that anymore. I would only be able to surf a limited set number of websites. If I want to use Facebook, I’ll be charged extra. If I want to use WhatsApp, extra. Skype? Extra. Even if I want more speed, I would have to pay for it depending what all rules they implement. But the companies would have the power to do it.


So What? Even now they Regulate my Speed with 2G and 3G!
No. That’s different. 2G, 3G and now 4G are different generations of technology. 2G is just an older generation of signal and 3G/4G newer.

So aren’t there any Rules to stop this?
In India, No. We don’t have any formal set of rules to govern Internet Usage. Although many telecom companies have tried there best to adhere to them but legally, there are no such rules.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regulates the telecom industry tried to come up with rules several times starting 2006. However they couldn’t be successfully implemented.

Net Neutrality was a big issue in the US just a little while back. The FCC which is America’s TRAI on Feburary 26th, 2015 officially declared rules for Internet which were broadly under these three.

  • No Blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: Broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.


So what is happening in India?
Telecom companies usually adhere to net neutrality sort of because of a gentleman’s agreement. There have been a few issues here and there but it’s mostly been stuck to. During New Year 14-15, Airtel introduced new plans charging exorbitantly for using Skype. Although their plan got pulled in about a week but that was when it all started. Companies are trying bit by bit to control the flow of internet data and what we need are a formal set of rules to stop this.

Net Neutrality is something which we all need and it should be a law. It is our right as much as we have freedom of speech.

Here is a video by AIB (All India Backchod) who this time, instead of roasting people, are sending an important message!


Picture © DrAfter123/Getty & TheNextWeb

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