ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Net Neutrality Is Basically Internet Egalitarianism

Net neutrality is neither a technical principle nor something necessary to uphold free markets. It is an egalitarian principle as applied to a key building block of the new social system of the internet. But it is equally important to check the concurrent tendencies of rapid centralisation of power in so many areas that the networked social logic has caused. To be able to ensure this, the related principles of neutrality, non-discrimination and equity have to be applied consistently and meticulously across all layers of the internet.

Developing countries, including their otherwise politically conscious and active groups, have to date mostly engaged with issues of basic access to the internet, and the quality or bandwidth of connectivity. It is often considered premature to talk about internet-related architectural and governance issues when people do not have basic access. Taking advantage of such apathy, telcos and big internet companies (those providing content and applications) have chosen developing countries to begin fiddling with the basic egalitarian design of the internet. The purpose is to set up permanent rent-seeking positions over this most important techno-social infrastructure of the current times.

Facebook and Google have got into agreements with internet service providers (ISPs) to make available their services free of data charges. This tilts the playing field against competing services, including those provided by start-ups or by non-profit organisations who cannot afford to pay the ISPs to make their services similarly available with no data charges. Facebook has gone a step forward and pulled together a bouquet of different kinds of services called the which is being provided free of data charges. The big telcos, who are the main ISPs, keep exploring business models involving priority channels—with faster and better transmission—for content providers who are willing to pay extra, at the expense of all other traffic. Often, they simply block communication services like Skype and Viber that compete with voice services provided by the telcos, or ask for higher data charges for using such services.

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