Net Neutrality: Who are the real stakeholders?

Net Neutrality: Who are the real stakeholders?

Telecom Regulator Association of India (TRAI), the apex body in control to the entire telecom sector, its rules and regulations, has, once again sought opinion from all the stakeholders on whether to rule in Net Neutrality in India or to rule it out and favor operators like Airtel who offer services like Airtel Zero. TRAI wants a referendum; it aim to create a uniformity of thoughts across market and take a decision thereby. Interestingly, what TRAI is doing is that it is seeking opinion from the operators and regulators but the consumers who are actually going to be impacted by Net Neutrality. Though by the virtue of the fact that TRAI has asked commoners as well to share their views, it is highly ambiguous in terms of approach and how to reach these consumers.

It is important to understand who the real stakeholders are. Moreover, it is also important to understand how Net Neutrality will function and what shall be its impact on these stakeholders. For Net Neutrality or the overall telecom services, the subscribers who are using them are the actual stakeholders. They are the one who directly get impacted with any movement in the policies. For them, it is actually a benefitting situation to have multiple options to choose from when it comes to mobile internet. The users would love to choose a plan which suffices his requirements. Explaining this with an example, if I have to travel from Patna to Delhi through Railways, I have multiple options to choose from. I can opt for a Second class passenger train which takes two days to complete the journey, or I can go for Rajdhani Express which reaches Delhi overnight. It now depends on the urgency, how early I want to reach to Delhi. Interestingly, both the trains would run on same track, still I would pay different charges for different trains. Similarly when it comes to access to internet and various portals, a consumer would love to pay an extra penny to get access to a certain portal depending upon his urgency. For example, I can search a job on Naukri.com as well as TimesJob.com. Suppose I use Airtel connection and it has a tie up with TimesJob.com. Now, I can access Naukri.com but I know TimesJob has better jobs available with them. I would easily subscribe to Airtel Zero and get an easy access to TimesJob instead of going to a Naukri.com.

TRAI is seeking opinion from all the stakeholders, but the consumers. It is talking about potential discrepancies which various companies might face to get registered with such service providers. However, it is ignoring the amount of ease a consumer would have.

TRAI must take into consideration all the aspects and should widen its perspective while formulating any policy on use of internet through mobile. The Indian telecom market is one of the largest in the world and recently crossed one billion subscriber base. A policy should support its further expansion and help consumers have an easy access to the sites and portals of their use. Though it will be clear once the policies are formulated, it will be interesting how TRAI takes into consideration all these aspects.    

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