Don’t touch the Net Neutrality and anger the youth

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The Congress accused the Narendra Modi government of “favouring a few corporate” and attempting to “break the connect” in the usage of internet messaging services such as WhatsApp and Viber. Congress spokesperson R P N Singh feels that applications like WhatsApp and Viber have become a major connecting and communicating medium for millions of people across the world. He alleged that the committee appointed by Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has agreed to the demands of the telecom industry at the cost of the common mobile user. In India, there are about 10 crore users on WhatsApp and similar services. However, recommendations of the DOT to make these services chargeable will adversely affect all, especially users in the rural areas. Mobile phone user wants free access to popular applications such as WhatsApp and Viber and service provider should not interfere with the free access to websites/content on the internet. The panel headed by A K Bhargava, was asked to look at the whole gamut of net neutrality, suggested earlier this week that free regime for domestic calls made through internet messenger services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype be benchmarked against regular telecom service providers for tariff and regulation. It has said other communication services offered by them dealing with messaging should not be interfered with regulation.

Net neutrality can create new ripple in IT industry, there are many technical people who are protesting against moves to filter access to the web. The protesters alleged that some telecom providers were trying to divide Internet by blocking some applications and websites with the objective of extracting more money from the users. This was in violation of net neutrality and would become unaffordable for a large number of people by denying them Internet access.Net neutrality is the basis of the present Internet. It accorded equal treatment for all Internet traffic enabling growth of Start-ups and new services. However, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) proposed decision to regulate services will slow down the development of the Internet. TRAI’s controversial move that endangered the privacy of over a million Internet users in India was met with extensive scrutiny. The general argument was that publicly disclosing the email IDs had made it easy for spammers to gain access to a huge database of email IDs in one go. It is the principle that all traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers. Those advocating Net neutrality believe that all bits of data are equal, and, therefore, should not be discriminated on the basis of content, site or user. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started.

The thrill became really big in the recent past after TRAI put out a 118-page consultation paper asking the public for its opinion on 20 questions, most of them about how the Internet can be regulated. Views were also sought on net neutrality. Telecom operators investing in internet service infrastructure should charge internet users to cover the costs related to that line of business. Making a hue over VoIP services offered through internet is illogical (except their personal economics). What if Indian postal services tried to block courier services? Technology changes, innovative offerings create new business establishments. Trying to block net neutrality just because few business establishments are not getting the share of profits is unprofessional conduct, absurd and childish.

Bharti Airtel was first Telecom Company to decide to charge subscribers extra for use of apps such as Skype and Viber, towards the end of last year. These apps compete with the voice and messaging services of telecom providers, and are even cheaper. There was uproar, after which Airtel stayed its decision, saying it would wait for regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services.

People realized the mess created by these companies in 2G scam. Now, everybody bid at very atypical rates and a paradigm shift in communications due to technology like Skype etc. happened and companies already stopped or were creating hurdles for cell network from one service provider to another. Now, these very companies entrench the net and maximize their exploitation. Let us put a firm stop on these efforts. According to the trade practices of the Internet service providers particularly in the segment of OTT services, it is not a mistake to charge for the app usages by the customers. However, it adversely affects the e-commerce business as browsing charges must be borne by the customer.

The TRAI views it differently as it’s bound duty that the services are threat to individual and national security and it is justifiable, too. The strict monitoring and regulation by the Cyber arm of TRAI can be maintained while prescribing the nominal fee structure for the app usages by which there can be no room for disputes.

Meanwhile, over 4.2 lakh mails had been sent in support of net neutrality through the savetheinternet.in Web site. Political parties such as the Congress, political leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan joined the bandwagon, as has the comedy group All India Bakchod through a video. All of them argue why the Internet should not be touched. TRAI was open to take comments till April 24, and counter comments by May 8.

In a recent development, hacker group Anonymous India has brought down TRAI’s official website after the Indian telecom regulator publicly released the list of email IDs from which it received responses on Net Neutrality. Anonymous India has posted a series of tweets claiming responsibility for bringing down trai.gov.in website via some supposed DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack. Moreover, the hacker group has warned that it would soon hack the website.

Vaidehi

Group Editor at NBC Pvt. Ltd.
Vaidehi, is an investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical hacker, Philanthropist, Author and an inspiration to many. She is Group Editor of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 4 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi daily tabloid – Mee Mumbaikar, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges, dedicated to IT industry, Indian news to the world and shipping industry, respectively. Besides the business perspective, she is an Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.