A plethora of online petitions pile up asking general Indian public to support the cause. They strive for a world where the Internet is neutral to the websites and data that are transmitted over it. They are determined to fight with the Indian Government to enshrine this principle in the form of a law, and urge towards devising a global framework to monitor and enforce a neutral status of Internet across. This is Net Neutrality.
Today, Internet has been inevitable for living a normal life. The urge of communicating faster and the expectation of receiving a response still faster – both go well with Internet and the elements of modern living. You may rely on a data analytics routine for what decision you make, and to make it instantaneous. Smart objects have enabled our sixth sense, and can help us communicate and collaborate without using our same old five senses. The life seems to have transformed.
However, we have the same corporate ethics and astuteness since the Medieval Age in Europe – the precocity identified with greed and opportunism. We have the same administration with inadequately aware politicians and a network of uniformly trained humans who are expected to behave uniformly, the bureaucracy, the largest human machine of British vintage. Transformation has not happened on all fronts really.
Our digital life is enabled with the grand infrastructures of different large corporate houses having long arms across our small globe. Whether you use a search engine or post on a social web or buy a gift on an online retail website, you are using their servers or network or both. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be happy to treat the websites like products in a shopping mall of their own – own brands or friendly brands may precede the competitors’.
On the other hand, the activists and supporters of Net Neutrality would like to see the Internet as ‘electricity’. The providers of power cannot decide which electric appliances you will use at your home or office; they can only charge a fee based on usages and at a standard tariff.
Some critics may even blame the current Indian government’s spectrum auction policy for inciting the rush of ferrying big bucks from population after ISPs offered large sums to our government in auction. One may also argue, we transit from the phase of complacency of earlier governments in spectrum sale to the phase of perceived corruption in the eyes of public, and now to the phase of coercion by corporate houses after the auction by the new government. But coercion cannot be called corruption (laugh).
Where do we stand now? First, look (at the) West.
European Union is struggling hard to come up with a set of well-enunciated guidelines that may be approved later this year. Meanwhile, different governments in the Union have started promulgating laws strict in their form and tone.
Or, look (at the) East. Like ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) experimented well with an economic and political understanding with a broad set of principles of not being confrontational and respecting others’ sovereignty, we can have similar Asian (ASEAN) values, and can have a broad set of guidelines to ensure neutrality of ISP over competing brands and privacy of individuals. Privacy is a different call; and let us not bring it here.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, believes in an open, free and neutral network, and reminisces of such objective when he had conceived it. Not a simple dream though!