Why Net Neutrality Matters
Yawning, you wake up from cozy bed, and check your phone. As you scroll through notifications, you notice that your email app just isn’t working. Instead you are redirected to another email app, one that you didn’t quite want. Since it’s the only one that seems to work, you have no choice but to download and use it. You try to share your experience on Facebook and Twitter, but they don’t load either. Frustrated, you call your Internet provider and the phone company, they say the same thing: to continue using the Internet as you always have, you have to pay more. Pay more for each app and each service, each time you use it.
Even as bills pile, you notice that what you can do online, is being restricted. After all, you can only use those apps and services that actually load on your phone and computer. Choices on content, shopping, social networking, email and video, have been made for you. And no matter what you do, you cannot question this choice or choose otherwise.
Or maybe, you’re an entrepreneur; the founder of a cutting edge startup, a bright spark in the market. On the same day, you notice, that people have stopped coming to your website and they aren’t using your app either. Instead, when they try to access your app, they are shown advertisements of a competitor’s app: a competitor with much larger pockets. Slowly, as you watch, your app users drift away to the competitor. You lose revenue. Over time, your business has no option but to wind down.
This is exactly what the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wants to do to your Internet.
They want to give your Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Airtel and Vodafone, the power to throttle your choices and destroy your businesses, just so that the ISPs can make even more money from people and companies. Just to remind you, these ISPs are the very same companies that promise Internet speeds that are never delivered and have customer service that can be best described as nightmarish.
Till now, our Internet has been ‘neutral’, that is, it treats all pieces of information flowing through it equally. TRAI is now proposing to remove this equality and create a Plain Simple biased Internet, one we like to call PISNET.
By removing net-neutrality and bringing in PISNET, TRAI wants you to pay more to Airtel or Vodafone or any other provider, whenever you use Snapchat or Facebook or gmail or whatever it is, that you’re using now. They want you to pay them for each service that you use online. Mind you, these ISPs haven’t made those services; they just want you to pay for ‘the luxury’ of being able to use those services.
The ISPs logic is simple: You can access all of services because you use Internet that is provided by them. And all services companies (from Google to Facebook and beyond) make money and don’t give ISPs any of it. But since the pipes are owned by the ISPs, they’re just going to take that cash anyways. It’s a simple mafia move.
To justify this, ISPs are saying that they invest a lot on the infrastructure that makes the Internet work, but don’t make any of the money back. This is simply not true. In February, Business Standard published an article that said Airtel had made its ‘highest quarterly profit’ since 2010, all on the back of charging more for data (data simply put, is your email, your videos, your facebook etc).
Its simple, when people can access more things online, they use more data and in-turn, they will pay ISPs more. But that isn’t enough for ISPs, they want to show you crap adverts and squeeze you for all you got. Once again, quite like the mafia.
PISNET also gives the ISP the ability to see which pieces of information should be sent out faster and which shouldn’t. With this, they can control the speed at which different services load on your computer, phone and tablet. For example, your ISP could force you to watch videos on Vimeo, simply by making Youtube load extremely slowly for you. They could then force Youtube to pay them, just to make sure that it actually loads on peoples’ computer. Yet another mafia move to beef up profits.
This isn’t just an example. Last year, American ISP, Verizon made Netflix load so slowly on people’s computers, that people started complaining. Netflix had no choice but to pay Verizon extra, just to ensure that Netflix customers could keep watching things that they had already paid for. Now that’s a move any mafia boss would be proud of!
If TRAI makes PISNET a reality, these mafia-style shakedowns will become routine. Big companies will pay ISPs to make sure that people can only access their sites and services. Small companies and start-ups, companies like BlueAnt Digital, who won’t be able to pay ISPs, will be trampled upon and pushed aside.
That’s not all. The PISNET will limit what you can read, watch and interact with. Making the Internet as much fun a Doordarshan. Oh, and you’ll have to pay extra for the privilege of having that.
If this posts makes sense to you and you want make a difference, head over to www.savetheinternet.in sign the petition and urge the TRAI not make the Internet one large PISNET. TRAI has to decide on this by the 23rd of April. We urge you to write to them before that.