By Ranjana Meharda, National Law University, Jodhpur.

Introduction:

Nowadays, one of the most important and popularly rising topic of general interest is social networking sites.  Almost everything is now available over internet and it has become a very common and general practice for a person to look for a particular solution over there and getting satisfied with the appropriate solution.  Social networking sites are made very easy to understand so as to attract as many people as possible.

Recently , a topic of interest both on social media and mainstream news is  THE NET NEUTRALITY. Net neutrality has remained a core democratizing tenet of the internet since the time it came into existence. In my present article, I will discuss several issues raised on the principle of net neutrality. Therefore, here’s all you need to know about net neutrality and the controversies surrounding the issue.

What is net neutrality?

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Net neutrality (also network neutralityInternet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. [1]

This is a sort of interaction and communications which pave way to the under-developed and the developing countries to know and understand the latest advancements and fasten to match their foot along with the rest of the world. The net neutrality has played a wide role in the development of the world at a much faster rate.

Why do we need it in INDIA?

In India, the concept of Net Neutrality is not something new.  Although this concept doesn’t exist legally, but taking into consideration the recent events into account, it’s time net neutrality should be introduced in India. Moreover, FCC has also approved net neutrality rules that prevent internet providers such as Verizon etc from slowing web traffic which will get you through a traffic jam faster. European Union states have also been striving for net neutrality.

In 2011, India adopted the new IT Rules 2011 that supplemented the IT Act 2000. According to these rules, it is mandatory for internet intermediaries to remove objectionable content within 36 hours of receiving complaint.

But the terms included in it were very vague in itself and could be interpreted in so many  ways. There were so many criticisms regarding the terms of the new IT Rules but still the terms exist and is still prevailing. Apparently, the Internet isn’t perfect as the way it is.

Whether Net Neutrality violates Freedom of Speech?

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) called for regulators to maintain net neutrality, saying that any discrimination in the treatment of data online amounted to violation of the fundamental right of free speech.[2]

Undoubtedly, net neutrality do create an open field facilitating new ideas i.e. innovations, adoption and along with this affordable telecom infrastructure is a must requirement.

However, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has said that telecom operators earn an average of 50 paisa from a minute on long phone calls but from calls made using internet they earn an average 4 paisa a minute which is going to dip further.[3]

 It will surely negatively affect freedom of speech. In absence of net neutrality, the big companies could give priority to TV networks from videos it owns and slow down the signals from its peers. Therefore, it is very important for freedom of speech, so that one can voice their opinion without the fear of being blocked or banned.

Who really benefits?

If there is no net neutrality, then the internet won’t function as we’ve known it too. For example, if somebody has a standard data package and have access at the same speed , the  Internet Service Providers (ISP) can then create slow as well as fast internet lanes, which unfortunately means all the websites cannot be accessed at the same speed and it can only be done by paying extra amount of money.

Most importantly it could endanger countless start –ups with hardly any capital to still make a mark. Big companies like Google, Twitter and several others are born out of net neutrality. Therefore, by rejecting net neutrality it will enable telcos to shut down the doors of millions of entrepreneurial aspirations and to play the gatekeeper to a valuable resource.

Therefore, it will definitely benefit the telcos on the cost of harming the market by unleashing monopolistic tendencies. Hence, we can say the cost of  telcos ambition will definitely the loss of the internet’s openness.

Net neutrality is very essential and plays a key role in innovation and creating job opportunities.

Conclusion:

Thus, I would like to wind up my views by stating that, there are thousands of new online stores, start-ups and simple e-commerce sites that hope to make big every day and net neutrality promotes creative and innovative expression. Net neutrality definitely, offers freedoms and protections which helped in the growth of the internet. In my opinion, Internet is a big bank of knowledge and knowledge should have free flow to have its full essence. It would be an absolute disadvantage if any obstruction occurs in the data flow through the internet.  However,some level of prioritization or restriction is essential to support the best interest of consumers as a whole.  Most decisions here are made by DoT and Trai. Lastly, I would like to suggest that it would be a good move to get things legally on paper, while Internet access in India is still at its infancy.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality

[2] http://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/net-neutrality-violation-takes-away-right-to-free-speech-nasscom/

[3] http://www.ibnlive.com/news/india/net-neutrality-violation-against-freedom-of-speech-nasscom-983457.html

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