The Media reports that Airtel, the (not-so-friendly) giant who planned to roll out additional charges on VoIP (Skype/Viber) calls, made via already paid Data Plans has rolled back. It’s good news, but the battle is just half-won.
India has a history of battles half won. Take the case of Kashmir, the case with Pakistan, the case of China, we somehow retreat when we sight success and the enemy recedes for the time being, arms and comes back and takes away half of our spoils and will end up being a thorn in our flesh for generations to come. Net Neutrality is not a war we need to fight for the time being, it is a fundamental policy that we need to have in place to ensure that innovation is now thwarted and that India stands a chance to play its game in the global economy that is blooming.
The case of operators not wanting to be just a dumb pipe but wanting to charge more for content that flows through them has taken many avatars. This is not their first, and this will not be their last. But as a consumer, and among those who are building the ecosystem to ensure future of technology in Country, we need to put the last nail on this coffin. Once and for all.
There were a couple of incidents that popped up while this issue raged. TRAI Chairman made a claim that Net Neutrality was not their concern. What is happening in the US – on a very similar battle – is that the FCC is relooking at Net Neutrality and trying to frame the policy around the same, however those who are dictating the terms are from the same lobby who are trying to get it appealed. You can understand the irony in that. The wolves can’t guard the sheep, let alone if they are allowed to dictate the terms on if the wolves can eat the sheep or not. We know how skewed the rules on that would be. We aren’t sheep. They need to get that message clear.
The spectrum upon which operators operate, are a public good. When it was licensed to them, it is us as citizens who have given them the right to operate on it, and make a profit, but as citizens we have the right to retaliate when they use what is rightfully ours, and are licensed, against us to fuel greed (not sustainability).
TRAI is going to put together a policy framework towards Net Neutrality and we have to ensure that we have a say in it. This cannot be a battle half-won. It has to be done right, so that for the near forseeable future, we don’t have to fight this battle over and over and over again. We do not want the equivalent of internet terrorists backed by greedy incumbents who jeopardize the freedom and openness of the web.
We are going to shift our focus on TRAI, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Keep the fight on. We need to end this right, not half-way.