Massive Online Protests In India Over Net Neutrality

Just as the United States seems on the brink of accepting net neutrality regulations, protests over a similar issue are erupting in India and Europe. Though net neutrality looks a little different in these regions, the issues are still fundamentally the same.

According to Jayadevan PK, writing in The Times of India:

In one of the biggest online protests in India, Internet users have sent more than [150 thousand] emails over the weekend to the telecom regulator asking to protect network neutrality in the country. In the last few hours, at nearly 10 emails a minute, the pace of such emails have touched record speed flooding the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's inbox.

"This is completely unprecedented. We thought we'll get about 15000 emails in 10 days," said Kiran Jonnalagadda, one of people behind the campaign. Earlier, the telecom regulator had sought views from the public on regulating 'over the top' service providers like Whatsapp and Skype.

In India, as in Europe, most internet customers have data plans where you pay for data by the gigabyte -- there are few "unlimited data" options like people have in the U.S. So the service provider Airtel tried to attract customers by offering "Airtel Zero," a service where "over the top" apps like Whatsapp and Skype would be free. The idea was that Whatsapp or other companies would pay Airtel to get preferential treatment, garnering more customers than alternative services offered by other companies.

PK continues:

By paying to be on Airtel Zero, companies can make sure that their users get free access to their service, while smaller players are at a disadvantage. Airtel has said that zero rating does not violate net neutrality as it lowers the cost of access and it is "non-discriminatory"."Saying that zero rating is not a part of net neutrality is denying a fact. Any price discrimination is a net neutrality issue as well," said Pahwa.

Protests in Europe, meanwhile, have centred on a proposal that would give some services "preferential" access to the internet and allow providers to block content.

The net neutrality wars are far from over.

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