It seems like we, the ordinary citizens of India, are being forced to fight our own government each and every day. First was Section 66A of the IT Act (which thankfully the Supreme Court quashed), then banning alcohol in Kerala (except in 5 star hotels), then allowing the police to tap conversations and submit confessions as evidence (Gujarat Anti-Terror Law) and then banning cow slaughter in Haryana and Maharashtra (and hints of national ban on cow slaughter) — at the expense of thousands of jobs! (Fundamental right to livelihood? We don’t care; we are Hindus.)
So, are we now a draconian, moralistic, Hindu state?
Whatever happened to democracy and the right to choose?
And here is the next battle: the fight for net neutrality!
What’s the problem? Basically telecom companies (Airtel + others) want you to pay more (data charges) for using certain products on the internet. For instance, if you are using Google, you will pay the normal rate. However, if you are using Skype or Whatsapp, they’ll ask you to pay 10x more or 100x more. Also, if you stream videos or torrents, they’ll probably charge you more.
Also, telecom companies can make some sites faster and some sites slower if they please (differential speed). According to netneutrality.in:
“ISPs can slow down some sites on while giving faster speeds to the companies that pay them more.”
“Say its a “big sale day” of Amazon and Flipkart and you are customer of ISP ‘BIGTELCO’. BIGTELCO can strike a deal with Flipkart for better speed on their network. Due to this you won’t be able to purchase on Amazon even if something is cheaper. Governments will no more need draconian laws to curb free speech. It can just ask the operators to make critical sites costly to access and also clamp down their speeds. Telcos that already have vested interests from the governments will happily oblige.”
Why are they doing this? They want to make more money — at your expense. Plus they don’t like VoIP products like Skype that allow users to talk overseas for cheap. They’d rather you’d talk over their lines for 100x more the cost or send international messages for Rs 5 instead of for free.
What do I, the consumer, get out of this? Nothinggggg! A lighter wallet! Less freedom of speech. That’s all!
When did this happen? It started a couple of months ago, when Airtel went ahead and decided to charge for Skype and Viber calls (instead of the calls being free!) There was an uproar and so they decided to can it for a while.
So all good? Noooooo!
What’s the problem now? Airtel and other big telecom companies lobbied with TRAI, and so TRAI decided to come up with a ‘consultation paper‘ to see if it’s okay for Airtel and other telecom companies to charge more for Skype.
What does the paper say? Basically, TRAI seems to be in favour differential pricing and speeds (telecom lobby is strong). However, TRAI is giving you, the public, an opportunity to voice your opinion before April 24th! You can bring about change!
I don’t like differential pricing/speed. I like net neutrality! How can I bring about change?
1. Mail TRAI before April 24th.
Send email to email@example.com telling them you support net neutrality and are against differential pricing/speeds.
This is the letter I wrote:
As a customer and a citizen of India, I strongly support net neutrality and am against differential pricing/speeds.
It seems ridiculous that telecom companies are even considering this. These are clearly anti-consumer practices that will allow telecom companies to make more money and kill services they don’t like (VoIP – Skype, WhatsApp, etc). What is more frightening is the fact that TRAI is not quashing this petition from telecom companies at the very start.
There are simple analogies which clearly indicate how absurd differential pricing is:
Water: Water comes to my tap through a service provider. Now, if I use that water to have a bath or wash my clothes or to drink in my nibu paani — what business is it of the service provider? Will he charge me more for washing my clothes vs having a bath? No! He charges me for the amount of water I’ve used; not for what purpose I use it for!
Electricity: I have electricity in my house in various sockets provided by BSNL. Now if I use that electricity to light up a lamp or charge my mobile phone or watch TV, it is no business of the service provider. I will pay for what I use — and not be discriminated because of the products I use.
Petrol: I buy petrol from Indian Oil. Now if I use petrol to fill a motorbike or a Maruti 800 or a Maruti Swift, it is of no business of Indian Oil. I will pay per liter. Not pay more or less because I have a bike or a car!
Differential speed is even more dangerous: telecom companies can throttle websites and freedom of speech without any repercussions. This is a very dangerous power to give to any private company.
I urge you, esteemed members of TRAI, to please allow net neutrality to prevail! It is a democracy after all.
2. Sign the NetNeutrality.in Petition before April 24th
Go to change.org petition and sign up to save Internet.
3. Share on social media before April 24th
Visit netneutrality.in to see what else you can do!
Come on, guys, save the internet!!
Image credit: netneutrality.in: