Trending Now | Keeping neutrality of data is sacred, VML's Lochan

On April 24 the Indian telecom regulators are preparing to recommend that changes are required in the current telecom regulatory framework. Telecom operators are concerned primarily because of the excessive use of internet leading to congestion and bandwidth difficulties. 10% of mobile users actually consume 90% of operators’ bandwidth. Internet enterprises are not in favour of a regulation that could tilt the balance in favour of telecom operators, but are advocating legislation to keep the internet open.

Media apps clearly seem to be one of the few services that are earning large revenues for the Internet companies, revenues coming mainly from advertising. In India, with 4% broadband penetration, the challenges to be faced by the broadcasting industry are yet to materialise. The India's active Internet video subscribers (on mobile) in 2014 were 12 million, expected: 15 million by 2015.

Allowing telecom operators to charge fees from content producers can result in operators "competing" for content, by charging different fees for different content providers. This could lead to fragmentation—where certain content would only be available on certain telecom operators, —and hence multiple "internets".

The industry has just been shaken by this issue. Here are some industry stalwarts expressing their views on Net Neutrality.

Manav Sethi, Group CMO, Askme said, "Internet is an essential service and should be provided without any discrimination, zero rating platforms can seriously affect the freedom and growth of the billions of entrepreneurs, quite against the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ vision of our government. Any violation of internet neutrality can have a serious bearing on effective and fair competition in the market place. We feel it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure a level playing field for home grown entrepreneurs and at the same time protect the interests of netizens."

N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA publishers of the Brand Trust Report said, “More individuals, each day is becoming aware and more vocal about the net neutrality issue, the crux of the situation being simple - the idea that internet service providers give their customers equal access to all lawful websites and services on the internet, without giving priority to any website over another. At one level, it is being linked to the right to freedom of expression and the right to information and correctly so. From a brand point of view we can already see it is impacting and hampering the equation with telecom brands such as Airtel, decided in December 2014 that they would charge more for calls made through services like Skype and Viber, but had to roll back the decision after outrage on social networks.“

Harish Bijoor has been tweeting his views on Net Neutrality all this while. Here are some of his tweets:

·         NetNeutrality promotes 'David' as opposed to a biased & paid-for Internet which promotes the moneybags 'Goliath'!

·         If Freud lived, he would classify "food, shelter, clothing, sex & Internet" together! Protect the basics!

·         If we did not have #NetNeutrality, Flipkart would not have been what it is today and twitter would not be twitter!

·         The world's largest democracy must also be the world's largest Internet DEMOCRACY! No other way!

Amongst all the controversies hovering around Airtel and its new zero plans, Airtel has issued a statement with regards to the same and their deal with Flipkart. In the same they have stated that they are supporting the concept of Net Neutrality and there have been misconceptions about their toll free data platform – Airtel Zero.

Airtel fully supports the concept of Net Neutrality. There have been some misconceptions about our toll free data platform – Airtel Zero. It is a not a tariff proposition but is an open marketing platform that:

1.     Allows any application or content provider to offer their service on a toll free basis to their customers who are on our network.

2.     Such customers whether on a data pack or not will therefore be able to access these toll free services free of charge.

3.     No site whether on the toll free platform or not under any circumstances is blocked throttled or provided any form of preferential access.

4.     The toll free platform is open to all content providers on a completely non-discriminatory basis and operates on the same principle as 1-800 tolls free voice services.

The statement made by Flipkart regarding their decision not to offer toll free data service to their customers is consistent with our stand that Airtel Zero is not a tariff proposition. It is merely an open platform for content providers to provide toll free data services. The platform remains open to all companies who want to offer these toll free data services to their customers on a completely non-discriminatory basis.

Tripti Lochan, CEO VML says, “Keeping neutrality of data is sacred. It levels the playing field and as a country gives us hope - which we are about enterprise and not just about scale, where big eats small. It's about a very simple fundamental principle - equality. Today, consciously, let's make a choice that counts.”

While sharing his views on Net Neutrality, Sameer Parwani- CEO&Founder- CouponDunia.in said, "We stand FOR Net Neutrality as its absence will result into emergence of monopolies or oligopolies which will be unfair to small and budding entrepreneurs. It would be a shame if the next big disruptive innovation is extinguished because of discrimination or deferential charges by user, content, site, platform, application, etc. It's commendable that the government has taken up the issue seriously and set up a committee to study the issues related to net neutrality and the consumer opinions. We hope the decisions are made in the favour of budding entrepreneurs and consumers alike. The government needs to actively engage with telecom companies to ensure a level playing field. Internet is still a growing phenomenon in India, and all steps must be taken to ensure that commercial interests of a few do not come in the way of this digital revolution - one which starts to benefit the common man in ways unimaginable a few years ago."

Rahul Golecha, Co-Founder, Videogram stated "These recommendations will be disadvantageous rather than being conducive to start-ups as they will not be able to match up to the premium paid by large companies to service providers. This will ultimately lead to monopolization of very few established ventures and push out start-ups in their nascent stages. It will take away the power of innovation from budding start-ups and will restrict them from exploring the ever-growing potential of internet. From consumers’ point of view, it is extremely necessary to give them freedom of choice in order to create a developed digital ecosystem. “

Perspective from Zafar Rais, Founder and CEO, MindShift Interactive: “The importance of fighting the consultation paper put forth by TRAI can’t be highlighted enough. If it goes through, it is spells the end of our freedom to get information from around the globe. The whole spiral of connectedness that we bask in will crash. Net neutrality is what makes the internet what it is - the last platform that stands for absolute freedom. An open internet is the ground on which innovation is built. Entrepreneurial ventures will be at the mercy of large corporate houses, which will make people’s power to choose less and allow the honchos to thrive mostly without much threat of better creativity and newness by the youth. What's ironic is that this is supported by organizations, which were born and flourished because of the system of 'neutral net'. As a country, we deserve to net neutrality to help us grow and own a larger stake of thought leadership.”

Ritesh Agarwal CEO, OYO Rooms, in support of net neutrality said, ‘Net neutrality is absolutely essential for a free and competitive market especially now since there is a start- up boom in the country particularly in the online sector. Most importantly Internet was created to break boundaries and as concerned industry players, we should maintain that. We support net neutrality and will do all needed to build this further. By Archit Ambekar | Twitter: @aambarchit

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