What is net neutrality?
The internet can become quite powerful and end up treating certain data with fewer benefits. Discrimination and charging unnecessary amounts can result in the internet being a place of no freedom when it was made exactly for freedom of expression and freedom of information.
Net neutrality brings equality in all related fields and data on the internet. Therefore the internet service providers cannot intentionally block, slow down or charge fees to visit specific websites or read through the online content.
When was the first time it was discussed in India?
In December 2006, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India released a consultation paper that noted Internet being neutral since 1998. However, it noted that discrimination will begin and this paper invited opinions from stakeholders on whether the intervention was required.
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In November 2017, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India gave recommendations for net neutrality. This was because some of the Indian internet service providers were taking advantage and discriminating against certain websites. The recommendations took India one step towards net neutrality.
What was the debate that intensified pertaining to net neutrality?
The whole debate on network neutrality in India garnered attention when Airtel, one of the most popular mobile telephone service providers started abusing its powers. Airtel announced additional charges for Voice over internet protocols (VoIP) such as Whatsapp and Skype.
Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal said that free applications like Whatsapp and Skype should be regulated. Even Vodafone CEO Marten Pieters suggested companies that offered free services online should be taxed as telecom operators were affected.
Airtel made the first move when they started 2G and 3G services with an explosion to VoIP data. They started charging INR 0.04 per 10KB for 3G and INR 0.1 per 10KB for 2G. However, it did not get into trouble as there was no regulation in India that demanded net neutrality.
Effects of the latest approval on Net Neutrality in India
The new rules put forward prevent ‘any form of discrimination or interference’ with data in regards to ‘blocking, degrading, slowing down, or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.’