In the past few weeks we have witnessed many raging debates on the issue of free basics, net neutrality, what’s better and what’s not? Today happens to be the last date for giving responses to the TRAI Paper on zero-rating platform approach, the key issue. The telecom regulator has even gone to the extent of asking those in favour of Facebook’s Free Basics to elaborate with specifics instead of the generic template designed by Facebook.
While Facebook on its part has even gone to the extent of looking at including other rival social network platforms like Twitter or Google + on its Free Basics and opening the option of a possible third-party, where exactly do we stand on the net neutrality situation in our country?
Net Neutrality has been essentially defined as the concept which looks at providing a level playing field for all on the internet. According to this, Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source and there should not be any undue favouring or blocking of a specific site. It first came to fore in India after Airtel launched its Zero marketing platform. In this context the TRAI floated a paer on December 12 last year questioning differential data pricing for content services raising concerns over the zero rating platforms offered by telecom service providers in particular. Though there isn’t any direct mention of net neutrality, the paper raises a very valid question, whether these platforms will now act as gatekeepers of the internet, stifling innovation and blocking access to lesser know and smaller sites with limited power to enhance access?
Net Neutrality activists have clearly claimed that these platforms are a complete violation to the guiding principles of equality on internet. The TRAI paper has garnered huge response, exceeding 6 lakh and Reliance Communications plan to launch Free Basics on its network has been put on hold by the Telecom regulator. While reports indicate that Free Basics has garnered significant support, the point is how much of it is an informed choice and how many signed up even without comprehending.
Well as the deadline draws to a close today, all eyes would be on the outcome of the responses to the Telecom Regulator and the final decision from the policy makers.