Pray, What is Net Neutrality?

13th May, 2015

| by writesolutions

Sometimes, no policing is good policing

Shabda Pawar

Today’s generation requires four basics – food, shelter, clothing and of course, the INTERNET.

Internet allows people to connect and exchange information freely, if the information or service is not illegal. This is because of net neutrality. It’s currently the hottest debate that the netizens are seized off. There is a strong and growing web tribe (#Save the Internet) that is trying to protect the rights of ordinary citizens in order to ensure that they get free access to the information posted on the internet.

#Save the Internet charges that due to intense lobbying by telecom operators like Airtel and Vodafone, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is toying with the idea of blocking certain apps and websites in favor of businesses with deeper pockets, which would be a contravention of net neutrality.

TRAI however appears to have kept an open mind on this debate and released a consultation paper with 20 questions spread across 118 complicated pages, inviting consumer’s response and discussion on the subject. It’s another matter that the government agency goofed up later by revealing the e-mail IDs of people who responded to the consultation paper, which just goes to show TRAI babus shallow knowledge of the digital medium.

This blog attempts to fill-in that information gap.

For starters, net neutrality, an idea derived from fixed telephone lines has worked. With a telephone service, you can dial any number and connect to it. You have free access and there is no operator as a middleman to intercept or monitor your calls.  But in the digital space, it’s a different ball game altogether.  Here there are carriers and operators present, who manage the optical fibre networks.

In digital space, net neutrality is a network design paradigm that argues for broadband network providers to be completely detached from what information is sent over their networks.  In essence, it argues that NO bit of information should be prioritized over another and that info consumers would have unrestricted access to every bit that’s posted on the net.

This principle implies that an information network such as the internet is most efficient and useful to the masses only when it is not policed and is less tailored to a particular audience and is instead attentive to multiple users, a problem that exists even with State owned broadcasters like AIR and Doordharshan that have ended up being government mouthpieces. No wonder no one likes to tune into these government sponsored stations. The same fate can befall the internet, if net neutrality is not super imposed.

The internet’s success in fostering innovation, access to knowledge and freedom of speech is in large part due to this principle of net neutrality, which does not give priority to any website over another.

The world over Net Neutrality is the internet’s guiding principal. It preserves our right to communicate freely online in real time and for very little cost. This is what Cloud, Open Source, sites like Wikipedia are all about. These initiatives are meant to counter powerful hegemonies. Without net neutrality, cable and phone companies could push the Internet into fast and slow lanes. It would muff the voice of dissent. It might spell the doom of the great Era of Information Dissemination#.

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Radhika Sachdev

Content Strategist

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2 years 11 months ago

Excellent piece of writing and also very informative.