How complex is Net Neutrality

The complexity of Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is a complex topic. Although it talks about free access to internet and proposes free offering of internet services to the users by various service providers, it does not give a clear picture on usage habit and the extent of charges for the users. Though transparency is one of the core elements of net neutrality, it does not give a clear picture on why some of the portals get banned in a particular country or why there happens a blanket ban on internet services in a particular region. Primarily, net neutrality is still a subject of debate and discussion; there is no clear guidelines so far from the authorities.

The Internet has indeed been a crucial tool of innovation and economic growth. The demand for better bandwidth is therefore, increasing day by day. The network operators, too keep improving their services for an uninterrupted access. They use congestion-management and traffic-shaping techniques to keep their network running smooth. The real confusion starts from here only. Some of the stakeholders of the game believe that the network operators are technically able to use traffic-management practices to give preference to certain Over-The-Top (OTT) Apps. Apps like Flipkart, Facebook, WhatsApp etc. are OTT apps which are available free of cost. However, there are some OTT apps which use Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) through which they enable transfer of voice and video between two users. It is this facility of VOIP on mobile network which fueled the entire confusion.

Let’s think of some of the situations which everyone comes across but seldom gives notice.

  1. What if I can control my internet usage and plan my billing accordingly:

If I am a stock broker and only access internet on my mobile for tracking stock exchange movements through certain apps. For me, free access to other services is useless. Still I am being charged for the overall access. If I get a plan from my service provider which allows me access to that particular app only in less than half of my average monthly billing, why I should not go with it!

  1. What if get access to VOIP OTT apps and plan my billing accordingly:

I am an arts and craft retailer and most of my clientele are from abroad. I do use apps like Skype and WhatsApp Video Call to talk and display my products to my foreign customers. If I get a package from by telecom service provider which gives me uninterrupted access to these apps and adjust my billing accordingly, why I should not shift to that plan.

  1. What if I get access to service platforms of my choice and plan my billing accordingly:

I am a doctor and I only access OTT app like Practo to schedule my appointments with my patients and address their queries. If my service provider offer me a plan where I get free access to Practo at half of my average monthly billing, why I should not accept this offer.

The telecom operators who offer mobile internet services cannot tolerate direct competition to their business. The VOIP OTT apps present a direct competition where they ask users to use their services for talking and video calling. Moreover, there is no clear guidelines on the VOIP operations in India. The authorities are still in discussion mode where they have asked opinion of other stakeholders and general public at large.

Net Neutrality, therefore, is a complex matter and until there comes a clear guideline of usage of VOIP services, it will remain complex.

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