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article imageNet neutraility status threatened in India Special

By George Varkey     Apr 8, 2015 in World
After the U.S., it's time for Indian citizens to fight for net neutrality status. This time netizens of the world’s second-largest telecom users nation are gearing up to prevent attempts by cellular operators to end India’s net neutrality.
On March 27, 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a 118-page consultation paper on the regulatory framework for over-the-top services which include social networks, search engines and video platforms. It is an invitation for Indian citizens to provide their opinion by answering 20 questions, the end result of which would determine whether Internet and mobile service providers should be given the right to charge for using services like Skype and WhatsApp, that at the moment is free for users.
The deadline to respond is April 24, 2015.
The question being asked by Indian advocates of net neutrality is whether the price to be paid for Internet services should differ according to an individual’s economic status.
“India has highways and expressways that charge tolls for passage. Does any of them charge different rates according to the vehicle model? Isn’t the power bill charged for a corporate bank and a small business, based on usage rather than income? How can then a subscriber be charged separately for different services, if the person is already paying for the Internet? That is absurd,” said Greeshma PG, a homemaker.
She believes that India should follow the example shown by US citizens who fought and won the right for net neutrality. India which comprises mostly middle-class families would not be able to afford Internet if separate charges for different services are implemented, she added.
Whatever decision TRAI will take, it would be a hard stand. On the one side they have to answer the 970 million telecom subscribers and on the other side they have to face Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) who is lobbying against net neutrality. COAI forefronts the idea that they are meeting heavy losses because of voice-over-call protocols services like Skype.
“Right now we are using Internet in a fair manner. There are no restrictions to use voice protocol services or video platforms like www.youtube.com. If TRAI ends up supporting the COAI that would end the Internet openness in India. Telecom giants over the years made huge revenues piggybacking applications like Whatsapp, but now their greed to make more money have reached a point where they want to charge separate bills for each usage. This would be disastrous for India,” stated Sujith R Menon, chief copy editor of a print publication.
The subcontinent already got a taste of net neutrality when Facebook introduced Internet.org recently. The service provides users access to various websites for free. However, Facebook never compensates the website owners, instead giving the partners a platform to showcase a part of their services. If a subscriber wants to access the rest, they will have to pay more.
As citizens and lobbyists prepare for a showdown, whether net neutrality will continue in India or not would be determined soon by TRAI and the end result depends on who convinces the authorities effectively.
More about Net neutrality, India, Telecom
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