Let me start saying that I am in favor of Net neutrality being a techie.
You might have heard of launch of internet.org initiative and release of mobile application launched by Facebook with Reliance. This week came with news of introduction to AirTel Zero platform.and reports of a major e-retailer has joined the platform. Start-ups are concerned that the application allows access only to limited set of content and services and not others. This is termed as violation of net neutrality. There is fear of step-mother treatment compared to biggies boarded on the platform.
I decided to see Net neutrality from eyes of the common man. Started with explanation in language closer to the common man.
- To access limited free content offered by Internet.org, pay for a specific mobile connection (in this case, Reliance).
- To get access on equal basis to a diversity of internet content, pay a little extra in absence of Internet.org.
The common man cultivated habit supported by telecom operators with free minutes as part of pre-paid plan- voice and data. The common man sees extension of the plan to include limited free content. The common man started using Facebook years as Facebook access plan was offered for Rs 30 per month by cellular provider. He see this move a positive with new power to view more content over internet compared to earlier times. He can also hear new music and view short clips from movie of his favorite actor. He does not see today why or how it is not good for him.
Looks very similar to complaints of social activists about UIDAI or Aadhaar and their explanation that the same is not for their benefit. Even current ruling party apposed the same while in apposition and now they support the same. May be these people who complaint would also not do so later. Why to involve in area that I do not understand?
When one looks from common man perspective, the new initiative has potential to remove digital divide in the country ( advantage) and at the same time has ability to also to create monopolies(detrimental) for the common man. The common man is one who needs to decide which way to go forward.
Have a brave heart if telecom operators board state governments and utilities on the platform and allow citizens to access government related e-services for free or say Rs 50 per month. That also would benefit the common man.
Effectively common man does not have much money and the new initiative offers benefits to him with little or no additional expense.