Net Neutrality: Levelling the Playing Field

Net Neutrality free internet access

“What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights.”  Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

 

While healthy competition in real world has been most difficult task to achieve, it came naturally in virtual world as the internet providers treated most of the internet traffic equally. However, there is a huge threat to competition now! Internet providers have decided to gate-keep the traffic and charge different websites differently. Intense lobbying by telecom operators like Airtel and Vodafone, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to allow them to block apps and websites to extort more money from consumers and businesses — an extreme violation of net neutrality!

Where a real society has developed from more discriminatory towards a lesser one, it has evolved from partial towards neutral and laws that regulate this society has aimed at creating a fairer, equal and less biased social environment.  This does not appear to be so in the virtual world.

How will this affect us?  Net Neutrality will affect us in many ways. Firstly, it will allow big companies to buy bigger space in virtual world and pose their information; make some sites faster than the other. It could also mean service charges would increase to use certain application. My concern is not with costly services alone. While on one hand, loss of neutrality will result in loss of available unqualified and unbiased information, as the moneyed companies will be able to pay higher for promoting their business, products and their information and on the other hand, it will create an unequal playing field for smaller business/start-ups. Possibility of start -ups making success stories such as Google, Flipkart, etc., will soon vanish; the possibility of entrepreneur dreaming big and acting big, will all be a dream alone!

This virtual world of business has posed real threat to actual world of commerce. Due to boom in e-commerce business, real companies are posed with huge challenge to compete and deliver at a much competitive price and service.  This virtual world also gave unprecedented opportunity for those with no money, to start a business with aid of some investors. An “idea” could change one’s life!

Now, by taking away net neutrality, we will be shutting the door on the entrepreneurial aspirations of millions!  It will hinder innovation, and fair competition between the ISP players! Free internet promotes spread of ideas.  Regulating net neutrality will help the ISP companies alone!  No regulations should be made with intention to cater to a few rich, but with an end goal to accrue benefit to society at large!   Let us all be cautious of how we use this liberty and ensure that economic development does not come at cost social development but along with!

 

Author: Neeti Shikha, Assistant Professor at IMT Ghaziabad

New Delhi, India