Net Neutrality debate: Three opinions that provide an alternate view

Unless you've been living under a rock, the term 'net neutrality' may sound quite familiar by now. In the past couple of days, everyone had been actively sharing explanatory posts on social media about net neutrality, its benefits, and how telcos plan to violate it. Petitions are being signed to coax Trai into rethinking its 'paper' and massive public outrage even forced Flipkart to back out of Airtel Zero. There are some who also believe that India shouldn't rush into making any decision and weigh the pros and cons on both sides before taking a drastic decision.

While everyone has something to say, here are three opinions that you must definitely consider before taking a side.

Unforseen problems may arise

Firstly, lets look into the new rules passed in the US, as a result of some pressure from President Barack Obama. FCC had outlined its rules in support of net neutrality asking ISPs not to block or ban content or create fast or slow traffic lanes.

However, some believe it doesn't really address any major problems. A report by Time has emphasized how it is all in for net neutrality, but there are other major unforeseen problems that could arise due to it in the future. Net neutrality doesn't really fix major problems like the cost and slow Internet speeds.

"These regulations are positive step, but those swept up by the hype might end up disappointed when the real thing finally arrives. That’s because net neutrality doesn’t seriously address anything cable companies are currently doing, nor will it help with the number one issue most people care about: the price and quality of their service," according to the report.

We as an emerging nation have been facing slow Internet issue for sometime now, which could be sidelined. There could be lack of competition, and nothing much would really change for the average user.

"Competition is scarce because it’s prohibitively expensive for a new company to build its own fiber network. The FCC could have fixed this problem by requiring “last-mile unbundling,” a policy that would force major broadband providers to lease their own networks to competing ISPs, when it reclassified broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. However, Chairman Wheeler explicitly ruled unbundling out of any net neutrality regulation," the report says.

"I’m not saying net neutrality is actively bad. We’re better off in a world with these kinds of restrictions. That said, the new rules should be seen as little more than a preventive measure for abuses that have largely yet to occur," the report further adds.

Curb new business ideas

Similarly, Jeffrey Dorfman's article on Forbes suggests net neutrality in turn could curb new business ideas. "This is a bad idea for the same reason that only having vanilla ice cream for sale is a bad idea: some people want, and are willing to pay for, something different. Forcing a one-size-fits-all solution on the Internet stifles innovation by blocking some companies from turning new ideas or business models into successful products," he writes.

"The last thing we should want is a government agency picking winners and losers on the Internet. And enforcing net neutrality is picking winners and losers even if it looks like it is just “leveling the playing field.” He may think it is not, but it completely blocks certain business models and stops any possible innovation that might emerge if given the option of seeking differential access to bandwidth," he further adds.

Regulations should come up organically

"There is no reason for India to be hastening up any kind of action on net neutrality. The government needs to be well-informed of the inputs, views and thought processes of various stakeholders and then take a customized approach depending upon the specific customized requirements of Indian nation and the expected growth of the Indian mobile web," suggests Pavan Duggal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, India’s leading expert and authority on Cyberlaw & Mobile.

There are arguments about how net neutrality is important for India' Digital dream. It is also important for small businesses and startups, especially considering that India is becoming a breeding ground for startups and entrepreneurs.

"However, the conditions in India are dramatically different. India is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, and Democratic Republic under the Indian Constitution. With second-largest population in the world, we are constantly growing and evolving Mobile Web where increasing majority of Indian are only accessing the Internet through their mobile devices," he said.

Duggal believes the American experience on net neutrality could indeed provide various learnings for the Indian experience. However, the fact still remains that India will need to carve out its own specific way, going forward in the context of the net neutrality.


Published Date: Apr 15, 2015 06:42 pm | Updated Date: Apr 15, 2015 06:42 pm