There is a fight going on all across the educated society of our nation for Net Neutrality. It’s on your Facebook wall, in WhatsApp messages, in your college canteen, in para’r adda: pretty much everywhere. On, 24th April, the last day for signing the petition in favor of Net Neutrality, the youth of Kolkata organized a protest march and went to the Kolkata TRAI Office to hand over a deputation. We talked to Sutanaya, a key organizer of this demonstration, to bring you a closer look.
BongRong: Hello Sutanaya. Can you explain to us what exactly is Net Neutrality?
Sutanaya: Hi. See, Net Neutrality is the idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally, i.e. the TSPs (know more) are not allowed to shape legal internet traffic in any way. Airtel in India allegedly slowed down file transfer via BitTorrent, as per savetheinternet.in’s interpretation of Google’s Measurement Lab reports. This is one example of net neutrality violation.
BongRong: Why should people bother to fight?
Sutanaya: Net neutrality means Telcos should not target some sites or protocols and slow them down, or start asking for more money so that they do not throttle traffic to your site. If history is any indicator, without net neutrality, your uploads and downloads from many of the file hosting sites and software will take an impossibly long time. Accessing the sites that will not pay the extra money for faster traffic (which means most sites on the net) will get difficult. Also, without net neutrality, if you do not have the extra money to pay, Telcos can slow down traffic to your website. So it will do two things: 1) Make access to different things on the internet difficult, and 2) Make it difficult for those who provide or want to provide internet-based services but do not have a deep pocket.
One can go on, but I suppose these two are reason enough!
BongRong: So what exactly happened on 24th April? What did you guys do?
Sutanaya: Some 20 of us gathered at College More, put up a flex and drew posters. Then we sort of marched to the TRAI regional office which was about five minutes walk from there. Two of us went in, handed in a deputation demanding net neutrality and better public access to the internet, and talked with the Regional Advisor. Then they came out of the building and narrated their experience inside to those of us waiting outside.
BongRong: So, what’s the response from the Kolkata TRAI office?
Sutanaya: The Regional Advisor said that TRAI has received a million mails, but since the content of about 8 lakh emails is the same, they are going to treat those 8 lakh emails as one, though I do not know what he meant by that. He said that the Telecom companies need money to improve their infrastructure, and this is one way for them to raise that money. This is a bit funny, because the big ones among the Telecom companies are all posting good profits, and given how they are expanding, they seem interested to stay in the business. So I guess one can expect them to invest some of the profits if necessary without shifting the burden on the consumer. Also, it is a bit sad that the government is not taking responsibility to make internet more accessible to the public, because we know how indispensable the internet is becoming for better access to knowledge, information and to connect to others. The poorer sections will be further disadvantaged everywhere, from getting an education to getting a job, if they lack regular access to the internet.
BongRong: So where does this go in coming days, any specific plans?
Sutanaya: We will wait for the report on net neutrality that the Telecom ministry will publish by May 9. If we find the report to be against a freer, more accessible internet, we will think of some action to be taken.
TRAI representative from Kolkata pointed out two issues which are stopping them from making internet equal for everyone. Do you see any substance in that logic? What’s your argument against it? Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will publish the best arguments. Keep your eyes on our website for further updates on this issue. Lets fight for Net Neutrality!
If 9th May proves to be a day when the government takes our internet freedom from us, will you take the streets with these souls who are fighting for your freedom? Would you stand up for your freedom or just click the ‘like’ button on Facebook from your comfy couch?