Is Internet loosing its ethos ? Changing paradigms in net neutrality would mean that consumer would be the ultimate looser and it just might be beginning of monopolistic trade practice.
PUNE, INDIA: Consider these examples.
We have been reading heart wrenching stories about violence on women in news papers. Not surprisingly, women’s security is hot topic. And jumping the bandwagon are the independent software vendors (ISVs) who are developing applications ranging from sensory to SMS alerts. How will this data be classified by the service provider? If he classifies it under OTTS, it will be a serious jolt to the whole concept of the secure apps.
An off-shoot of this app is being launched in a personal healthcare domain which lets the user to alert his/her doctor or hospital, about a medical emergency. Most times, if the preliminary care is not administered within the first 30 minutes, the chances that a patient may survive are bleak. The entire concept is to provide a platform to the patient to instantly notify her doctor so that the crucial 30 minutes are not lost. Will this app also qualify as an OTTS ?
Commercially, Twitter recently launched another app called Periscope which lets users live stream videos either in a peer-to-peer or a broadcast mode. This is another case of OTTS implementation. Would the new regime make this as an entry barrier to other mobile app developers who want to launch similar apps with even better concepts?
I believe that the job of the Internet is to drive innovation, provide unlimited knowledge, foster a learning culture amongst the generation Y, and that is where Net Neutrality comes into play. The idea that an ISP will give his consumers equal access to all lawful content and services on the Internet without any preferential treatment to anyone certainly bears thinking about.
The Federal Communications Commission in the US recently adopted strong net neutrality rules that prevent ISP’s from creating fast and slow lanes on the Internet. But policy makers in India (TRAI), thanks to massive lobbying by some of the operators like Airtel and Vodafone, are considering setting-up a different set of rules that will hurt not only the consumers, but an entire gamut of stake holders including the start-ups and mobile businesses.
The proponents of weak net neutrality rules in India seem to bring in a notion that higher costs are necessary to ensure ISPs are able to meet their break-even targets and that they have a right to impose them.
What should be done?
Let’s talk reality: India is one of the most disconnected countries where the Internet and PC penetration is far lower than some of the other nations in APAC. In contrast, she has been at the forefront of smart phone revolution, thereby encouraging users from rural and semi-urban areas to consume mobile Internet for content and other services.
Therefore, from a mobility perspective, driving application innovation and services that leverage content available on the Internet, does not pose a massive challenge, even to the large number of start-ups. Mobile app companies are not only developing mind boggling apps, but are also using technologies like VOIP, geo-location, video and audio streaming to make daily workflows of the users more efficient.
ISP’s and mobile operators today are making a hue and cry about the loss of revenues owing to OTTS-based apps and content. While TRAI is being bullied into drafting a policy framework, will it also put the QoS (Quality of Service) norms in place? Most of the broadband providers do not have a SLA today. Almost all of the mobile service providers have tons of issues linked even to the quality of voice services, messaging etc. Let’s not even talk about the bandwidth that they are supposed to provide over 2G/3G or 4G networks.
This surely defeats the whole ethos of Internet being neutral to the user, carrier and content. While it does help the telcos and ISP’s to enhance their balance sheets, it will create a lasting impact on consumers. It will create an entry barrier to a host of app developers.