• Sapphire

Net Neutrality

DMS, IIT Delhi, March 2016

Mamta Swaroop



The Internet

Because it influences our life-style, there are stake-holders who want to control it in different ways. And there are stakeholders who consider is at a "Right" and would fight for its openness to be maintained. People advocate different frameworks to convey their viewpoints –

  • An open internet, running as-is

  • An open internet; ISPs being monitored by an independent body

  • A closed Internet, that refers to the opposite situation, in which established persons, corporations or governments favor certain uses


Net Neutrality

If it is to be regulated, how we go about it to keep it as transparent as possible -

  • Segregate Retail consumers and Wholesale consumers?

  • Treat B2B and B2C differently?

  • Introduce differential pricing of data services?

  • Regulate broadband internet services as a public utility, similar to electricity, gas and water supply?

  • Some content to be offered openly to all. And some to be charged commercially.


India / TRAI

Net neutrality violations in India

  • Facebook's Internet.org/Free Basics

  • Aircel's free access to Facebook and WhatsApp

  • Airtel's free access to Google

  • Reliance's free access to Twitter

  • TRAI recently came out in favor of Net Neutrality.

  • There are no laws enforcing net neutrality in India. Although TRAI guidelines for the Unified Access Service license promotes net neutrality, it does not enforce it.

  • It does not prohibit companies from throttling their service in accordance with their business interests.

  • People and organisations concerned about privacy or network neutrality find inspection of the content layers of the Internet protocol to be offensive (DPI) in the name of Lawful Interception, Targeted Advertising, Policy Enforcement etc.



  • "Common carrier" (identified as Telecommunication Service) status would give the FCC the power to enforce net neutrality rules

  • FCC chairman Tom Wheeler - this isn't a restrictive regulatory move (unless you're a rapacious carrier). This is a guarantee of non-restriction.

  • The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Ronald Reagan


Free Basics / Facebook

  • allows telecom operators to give free access to Facebook and its partners, a conditional access.

  • sets precedence for differential charging of data for specific websites Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative with the goal of bringing internet access and the benefits of connectivity to the two-thirds of the world that doesn‘t have them. In hopes that one day, everyone will be connected.

  • Free Basics by Facebook provides people with access to basic websites for free – like news, job postings, health and education information, and communication tools like Facebook.

  • Free Basics by Facebook provides people with access to useful services on their mobile phones in markets where internet access may be less affordable. The websites are available for free without data charges, and include content on things like news, employment, health, education and local information. By introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these websites, we hope to bring more people online and help improve their lives.

  • Players (developers, Non-Profit, Government) who are seeking a Platform to reach unconnected masses are invited to join Free Basics.

  • Guidelines to join Free Basics says -

  • Services should not use VoIP, video, file transfer, or photos larger than 200 KB.

  • Secure content is not supported and may not load.

  • Site(s) would be proxied to make the content available through Free Basics.

  • URLs would be re-written and embedded content from other servers might not work.

  • Any data or reporting provided by Freebasics is deemed Facebook confidential information and cannot be used by you for any advertising purposes or shared with third parties.

  • Facebook's ambition is not limited to just adding numbers for Facebook, they want to create an ecosystem of internet partners by offering them free to internet users. Their valuation is derived from users and not revenues. So, they will get them on board even paying on their behalf, if required.


Points to Ponder

Net neutrality does not mean that all kinds of apps, platforms or websites should have the same access rights when the government is offering free internet.

  • Doordarshan gives it for free but does it allow all kind of content. NO.

  • We leave Digital Footprints

  • We use Walled Garden Apps

  • We sign Binary Agreements

  • Acknowledge that philanthropy is a business too

  • Feeling of "entitlement" is misguiding. Free internet should be available to everyone - including us who can afford to pay for it.

  • US/FCC - Majority of servers are located in the US, which means that if the US votes down net neutrality, the ripple effect will be felt by everyone

  • Countries block other countries content in certain areas of interest like news channels and music videos

  • Preferred access does not equal preferred service


A public highway should charge for the use of a highway, on the basis of usage and not based upon the make of the car one drives, or depending upon whether you’re going to work, or to vacation.

Consumer should decide to take highway or not. Not the Free Basics should put few of them on Highway and leave others behind.

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