Today, we are going to talk about a trending topic known as “Net Neutrality”.
To explain this, we need to understand what the internet really means. Internet is a huge platform which contains millions and millions of websites. So as a consumer, you can choose which websites to visit, which ones not to visit. The same case applies to the apps that you use on our mobile phones.
Now What if Bartel or Modafone or Beercell (Your Internet Service Provider, also know as the ISP) tell you, you can visit Flipkart for free and at high speeds, but to visit Snapdeal and Amazon, you have to purchase a separate data pack.
Basically what the ISPs are trying to do is bring the set top box model to the internet in India.
So how does it affect you and me?
Bartel could tell you that you have general email access at Rs.28/- (2G Internet pack for 400MB of data). So if you give Rs. 28/-, you can access gmail, yahoo, rocketmail, outlook mail, etc. etc. Cool. But wait. What about Facebook? Whatsapp? We can’t imagine a life without them. Right?
Bartel knows this. So you need to pay Rs. 200/- extra to Bartel for accessing Facebook or Whatsapp. And you would have 3 choices.
1. Pay the money and access Facebook.
2. Don’t access Facebook
3. Move to another service provider (Modafone). But wait, they will also soon join the party and tell that Facebook is premium website and you need to pay extra.
Do you think this is a healthy option?
Obviously no. Why? Because, ISP’s job is to provide Internet for us at the speed we ask for. But not tell us which websites to visit and which apps to use.
So what will Facebook will do to counter this?
Facebook Pays Bartel money and make themselves as Free App inside Bartel. Why? Because Facebook has plenty of cash and it can afford it.
So you will get Facebook, Whatsapp, for free. (Or within the minimum range that you already pay). But what if you know that there is a new website which is doing great. Let’s say a New Orkut. You loved Orkut. Didn’t you? So you might also love this New Orkut.
But You can’t access it because it’s not in the package that you have bought. The package that you bought is only for Email access and Facebook/Whatsapp. So you need to buy a Internet Package worth Rs. 200/- (Unknown websites package).
Now here comes the catch
Now Facebook comes and tell Bartel that
“Hey, I am giving you Rs. X Crores for making people access Facebook more. Then why are you allowing New Orkut?”
Bartel: “But boss. You paid only for allowing free access to Facebook. If you have to block other websites, you need to pay me extra Rs. X Crores per month.”
Facebook: “Here is the amount you asked for. Now go ahead and block them”
Bartel: “Ok boss. I will reduce the speed at which Orkut can be accessed”
Customer: “Oh. This New Orkut is loading very very slow. Let’s quit or uninstall this app”
This is CHEATING but in a sophisticated manner.
Ok, Take Case 2:
Suppose we want to call our dear ones through Whatsapp or Viber as we were doing till now. But wait. We haven’t purchased Viber pack. Oh. That sucks. Ok, anyway, we have Whatsapp pack. Let’s use Whatsapp. Anyway its free.
But again there is a catch. The Facebook and Whatsapp pack only contains 500MB of internet data which is already near exhausted. So now Bartel wants us to buy Whatsapp Calling Topup Pack for Rs. 150/- with which you can make 1.5GB worth of Whatsapp calls.
Ok. Take Case 3:
Situations get worse if they have a competing product against these popular product (Whatsapp, etc.) that they endorse. For example, Bartel has a high liking towards Bike Messenger. So Bartel can give Bike messenger to you for free access, but to access Whatsapp you have to pay. But all our friends are on Whatsapp. Why should we go to Bike, if we are satisfied with Whatsapp.
So getting the point?
How much have you paid till now for your internet? Rs. 28 (Email) + Rs. 200 (FB + Whatsapp) + Rs. 200 (Unknown websites) + Rs. 150(Whatsapp Calling Topup = Rs. 578/- in total). So who loses? We the end customers. What we lose? Our money. Our freedom of choice to access whatever site we want. Our Internet Freedom.
How it affects Startups?
Let’s consider the case of New Orkut. It was a startup founded by two new graduates, who took a big risk by not joining an MNC (Which gave them a fat pay package) and are trying to do their own startup. They toil hard for 1.5 years, build the website, host it with their little savings and some money from friends and family and make the website run. With little money they have, they do all the promotion themselves. After long sleepless nights, they finally see that their website is getting traction.
But their growth is slowed by slow access to their website due to Bartel ISP and after a very slow growth for a couple of months, the startup runs out of money due to stagnant customers and the founders have to shut down their company.
Why this happened? Because someone with lots of money like Facebook can literally block access to its competitors by paying extra money to Bartel.
Why we are worried? Because we are a startup too. We don’t want a situation where there is a monopoly by big companies.
How it affects Mobile App Developers
You develop a new app, but you have your backend hosted in your own website or cloud. Now to get onto the Google Playstore or ITunes, you are already paying a fees.
You have to pay additional fees to access Bartel’s high speed internet or your users will have to be content with low speed internet for your app.
Getting the point?
To avoid things like this, the Net Neutrality (#NetNeutrality) principle was formed. It says that we can’t discriminate the internet based on the websites or services that run on top of it. Which means Internet is Internet. There is no Fast Internet for Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. and slow internet for others. It is on each one of us to stand for Net Neutrality and Save the Internet in India.
So what do you need to do? (You need to do this before 24th April)
- Visit http://www.savetheinternet.in/ and click on “Respond to TRAI now” button
- You will get a popup having a sample email which you need to send to [email protected]
- Compose an email and send it
- Share this message in your FB wall, Whatsapp, Twitter with hashtags #NetNeutrality
- If you are a blogger, please blog about this issue and raise the awareness.
Some relevant blogs/articles/Videos relating to the topic:
Net Neutrality Explained in Tamil:
Few images explaining about Net Neutrality
So what are you waiting for? Start taking ACTION now. Visit http://savetheinternet.in