There are dozens of beautiful articles/videos which explains the importance of Net Neutrality, yet, people miserably fail to understand its vital importance in this information age.
This is another post to explain it in my own words, hopefully at least 1 out of 10 people who reads this can understand its importance and act accordingly.
Note: This is solely intended to users who still fail to understand the utmost importance of Net Neutrality and fall for the fancy campaigns like
"Free Basics" from Facebook.
Facebook's Free Basics is another attempt from its creator to push its Anti Net Neutrality to the masses. I am just going to give you couple of scenarios which might explain about the true nature of Free Basics or any such initiatives, like the dead Airtel Zero.
1. Before starting, few definitions you should be aware of.
1.1 Content Creators - These are the people/companies/organiza
tions who Create Content in the Internet, let it be a cat video on YouTube, AIB Satires, a freelance journalist reporting middle east crisis or a startup in Bangalore promoting travel apps. These can be accessed either via a Web Browser, Dedicated Desktop Application or a Mobile App.
1.2 Internet Service Providers - These are the Content Neutral bodies, their only purpose is to make the Content hosted in the Internet by the Content Creators available to its Consumers/End Users via an Internet Subscription through a Broadband Connection, either to Home, or a Data Plan on a Mobile Device like a Smartphone. So, by definition, an ISP is just a middle-man who provides a medium for the End Users to either Access or Create Content in the Internet.
1.3 End Users - These are the Consumers who access the Content available in the Internet or Create Content in the Internet via an Internet Connection through an Internet Service Provider's Subscription Plan.
1.4 What Net Neutrality says - Any End User who want to access any Content in the Internet should be able to do so, considering that he/she/it has an Internet Connection from an Internet Service Provider. The Internet Service Provider is merely a Service Provider who has no authority over Content Regulation/Prioritization
/Discrimination. Unless ordered by a governing/regulatory body of the Internet for that region/country (Ex: TRAI in India, FCC in USA) or the Web (Ex: ICANN, IETF), as a whole.
2. Example Case:
Note: There are several amazing examples available in the Internet helping people to understand how Internet works and how Net Neutrality is vital in its functioning. I am going to present another case within the context for better understanding.
Let's go back 15/16 years to the case of Dot-com bubble/Dot-com boom. This is the period of time in human history which promoted the significant growth of Internet after the year 2000. Every small to large scale businesses wanted to have their presence in the Internet with their Website, which increased their companies normal trade value of equities (Stock Market) to more than 1000% percent (in some cases) and eventually bringing them down to nothing(Dot-com bust).
We are not going to talk about the Trade Economics here (which is irrelevant to this context), but we will be considering its significant importance in the growth of E-commerce and the World Wide Web, though only few companies survived the Dot-com bust, I would like to point out how every company in that time realized the importance of going Online.
Now, let's apply some scenarios to this case of WWW growth during Dot-com bubble.
Note: More about
2.1 Scenario 1:
2.1.1 Supporting Net Neutrality
Anyone can access any website in the Internet with a basic Internet Connection. There's no discrimination/prioritiza
tion/regulation of the content being accessed.
Every business in the Internet will have equality over their availability to every End User. Business growth will be merely based on how good your website is and your quality of service. Startups and several small scale businesses indeed benefit from this structure.
This is the true definition of Digital Equality. Internet and the businesses involved in it grows, this is why we have the Internet/WWW today. This is the healthy and the intended ecosystem of Net Neutrality.
2.2 Scenario 2:
2.2.1 Against Net Neutrality, breaking the Internet
Content Providers (with deep pockets) along with Internet Service Providers will come up with initiatives which segment/compartmentalize the Internet with names like "Airtel Zero" from Airtel or "Free Basics" from Facebook.
If you're subscribed to a particular Internet Service Provider, you're entitled to avail their Free Data Services, which exempt "certain category" of applications and websites from clocking data charges. And they CLAIM this would benefit Internet as a whole in penetrating to every corner of the world where users are not in a position to pay for Data Charges.
People when get used to free internet access(Free Basics), would not move to paid access, unless if they really need certain websites which cannot be accessed over Free Basics.
Eventually the demand turns over to availability of those unavailable websites in Free Basics, of course, for this to happen, Facebook has to begin with availability of certain services which comes readily available with Free Basics, like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, certain profit based services like Job Searching and E-commerce Apps, this is purely for promotional stage.
Here, the Internet Service Providers (in collaboration with Facebook) would ensure the Free Basics would have a super speed lane, without throttling (low bandwidth). Which means, when users access Facebook via Free Basics, they would get no delay(slowness) or would get high speed access, but the same Facebook when accessed via conventional data connection would be painfully slow, this has been confirmed by several Reliance users using Facebook on their data connections, again, this is a promotional campaign to make all of this subscribers to hopelessly use the Free Basics which is collaborated with Facebook.
Once the demand increases, more companies would participate in the Free Basics and make sure their services or apps are available for the users using Free Basics. Eventually causing the conventional Internet ecosystem to break away from its open nature by breaking the Digital Equality.
So if this was the scenario in Dot-com bubble or post its collapse, we wouldn't be having the World Wide Web that we have today, we would be having only few websites with monopoly over almost all the digital services. Benefiting parties would be ISPs and the big enterprises, definitely not the End Users.
3. Now let us look at some of the arguments and questions.
3.1 So what are the disadvantages of this?
Small scale companies and startups with tight budgets cannot afford to make their presence in Free Basics once the End Users moves to it, though they can be still be accessed over paid data connections, Free Basics users would still prefer Free Stuff over Paid, which will have Ironically better bandwidth, or, they are forced to use paid data connections at extremely high prices to access the websites/services which are not part of Free Basics. In either cases, Internet Service Providers gain profits, so do the Content Providers since their business gets prioritized in comparison with their weak counterparts (explained in next question).
3.2 If End Users are able to access certain services/websites/apps for free without paying a penny to Internet Service Providers, then how are the ISPs profiting from this?
ISPs would get huge chunks of money from Facebook who promotes such services. And the third-party participants in Free Basics pay to Facebook to have their presence in Free Basics, initially it would start with voluntary participation until the demand increases. This is the long-term profit making agenda behind and its alliances, there is literally nothing philanthropic about this. If you think YES, ask yourself why Facebook is collaborating only with Reliance in India, why not a government body like BSNL which has penetration to almost every corner of the country?
The same approach was made by Airtel through Airtlel Zero, which I am happy to say failed miserably. So Facebook is trying to do the same with their global brand image with diplomacy and catchy names. And most of you remember how Flipkart readily showed their Interest in Airtel Zero, so, what makes you think that if End Users can freely access Flipkart without worrying about accessing other shopping sites using paid data plans would benefit its counterparts? It wouldn't, Flipkart would become the choice of online shopping because you can access it freely without paying a penny to data. Would this be a fair play?
Do not confuse yourself by saying Free Basics cannot be compared with Airtel Zero, both are one and the same, the name used by Facebook is fancy to appease the masses.
3.3 What's wrong in that? It would benefit the less privileged people right?
If Facebook or Airtel or any other enterprise is so concerned about Internet Penetration to the masses, they should actively participate in funding projects or campaigns urging the respective Governments in those countries in building infrastructures which can provide at least a minimum 2 Mbps Internet connection to the masses as a basic right with subsidy rates, or considerable less amount. If people CAN purchase a Smartphone with 3000 to 10,000 rupees, they can avail a basic Internet connection to access all major services. Lack of infrastructure is the problem here, not Free Basics!
What's the point in providing Free Basics if a person in a village doesn't even have an Internet Speed with more than 56 Kbps Dial-up modem in 2015? If you really put your brain and think, these initiatives are made for the people with good internet connections in towns and cities.
3.4 This is in no way violating Net Neutrality.
That's what tend to happen if you blindly listen to Mark Zuckerberg's speeches or his Facebook posts. Educate yourself! Read about Net Neutrality from multiple sources, there are tremendous amounts of information available in the Internet explaining about this Fundamental Rule of Internet.
Please! PLEASE! Stop promoting such campaigns without even trying to understand them, this is not the Terms and Conditions you skip when installing a software, this is your future, our digital future!
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