Net neutrality in simple words means, giving equal treatment to all types of internet users across the globe without distinguishing their respective ISPs, mode of accsess, time of access or content consumed on various websites, applications or internet services. The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier. During earlier days, cable TV service providers made TV channels easily accessible for which no additional fee or charges was required. Access to these channels had no restrictions imposed on them. Instead, premium or local and flat fees were paid on them on a monthly basis. However, since this model has been evolved, and now certain premium channels/content partners do charge an additional fee.
Internet is a very massive term to describe it in a few words. The Internet, in our opinion is one of the greatest inventions of the last century benefiting people across the globe. It has not only given us connectivity with people long lost or halfway across the world, but it has also furnished us with a whole new world of content.
In India, the very notion of booking a railway ticket sitting at home was a distant dream earlier but today, Internet has made that easily possible and several such notions possible along with it – ranging from paying the cellphone bills to shopping for furniture, it can all be done online today. So, what has made all these changes possible? Freedom of access has created the need and hence a market for new products, services & content. The only heroes in this market are the quality of offerings and customer service making it a level field for all the players in the market.
The core issue of net neutrality was raised in India when a leading telecom operator partnered with an Ecommerce player and levied no charge to users for visiting or utilizing the e-commerce player’s assets.This deal would affect the netizens, the stand-alone web developers and the portal owners even who felt that such deals no longer allow for retention in the balance needed for a level playing field. While it would give free access to users, this deal would certainly slow down the growth of new ideas, other similar startups would continue to suffer losses and would not be able to pay for their user’s data consumption further.The customer would benefit from the immediate cost saving, however, this would still not be implementable for categories as a whole, and the focus on the core business would be lost as well. Moreover, there won’t be any gain.
From the viewpoint of a Telecom operator, they are investing capital to build up the infrastructure and to support the data industry as well which is no less than what an ISP (Internet Service Provider) is presently doing. While the telecom operators have paid a large sum of money to acquire telecom licenses, VoIP applications (Voice over Internet Protocol) have only developed due to freedom of internet without paying any amount to obtain a license, and continue allowing users to call on normal data rates, which becomes detrimental to the core business of the telecom operators to generate revenue from the mobile telephony market. Almost all the big names on the Internet or OTT space existing today were born because of the freedom of the Internet and other new channels.
Ups would greatly benefit from the few established online product or service providers who have achieved economies of scale to drive consumption by partnering with telecom providers, this would lead to a monopoly of the marketplace by such few players.For the Internet and Internet driven products to grow and to scale up, it is imperative that OTT’s provide a unique product offering to users, backed by a robust delivery & execution model.
Net neutrality problems of OTT players in India:
The problem began with Indian telecom players like Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance when all of them woke up and realised that users were replacing traditional texting with WhatsApp or Viber and traditional network calling with applications such as Skype (also called Over-The-Top services). They now want the right to charge what they want, when they want and how they want. In effect, if Airtel doesn’t like YouTube, but wants to push its own video application Wynk, it wants the right to offer that for free, while charging peopler a bomb to access YouTube. Reliance already has a Facebook-driven scheme called Internet.org, where one can access Bing for free, but one has to pay to access Google and one also has to have an access to BabaJob for free, while they have to pay for Naukri.com.
Effect of it on people:
Common people has to pay the price for telecom majors choosing to focus on network building (earning huge sums of money in the process) rather than focussing on building applications that OTT services like Skype and WhatsApp have milked to the maximum.Now, if the OTTs doesn’t pay what telcom companies want them to pay, the messages will deliver slower and videos will take longer time to download.The ISP may charge more for services like YouTube because they consume more mobile bandwidth. According to an analysis in the Times of India, if telecom companies have their way the Internet as we know it will not exist. Instead of free access, there could be “package plans” for consumers.
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