Net Neutrality in India
I never expected to be writing this article, as I didn’t think the question would arise in a country like India. In a country where a large number of people struggle to make ends meet, I figured this would come up much much later. I’ve been following what’s happening in the United States quite keenly over the last year or so.
In fact, net neutrality is far more important in a developing country like India than a country like the United States of America. India is seeing rapid growth and Bangalore, where I live, is flush with start-ups. Without net neutrality, many of these companies will not be able to survive, especially those companies whose products are an internet service.
Airtel has already gone ahead and launched a plan called Airtel Zero. Let’s take a look at it. Companies will pay Airtel to be a part of Zero and in turn, Airtel users will be able to access these companies’ apps for free. Sounds like a win for the user, right? Uh, no. Airtel can now start charging extra when you want to use an app which is not part of Airtel Zero. Airtel is basically pushing you towards certain companies’ services, who are paying Airtel to do so. For example, Flipkart, one of the country’s largest e-commerce sites is a part of Airtel Zero. An Airtel user can now access Flipkart for free, whether he/she actually wants to. What if the user wants to use Amazon or Snapdeal? Perhaps a better example would be Airtel’s Wynk service. Would you use it over YouTube or Rdio, even if it’s free? Most Indians will. Most people will opt to use the free service, even if there’s something better available for an extra fee.
And what will happen when other telecom giants come out with similar plans? Each of them will have a bunch of companies on their platform and the user will soon be limited to using those apps which are available on his/her network, simply because he/she won’t have to pay extra fees per service. Nobody wins - companies lose users and users cannot access services they want to, just what they can - except the network provider. We need to wake up and fight to preserve net neutrality, before it’s too late.
April 11, 2015