MUMBAI, INDIA: Share a picture you took in the restaurant last night? WhatsApp!
Had a video chat with your friend or relative in the United States? Skype!
How much did you pay for while using these two apps for sharing some priceless moments? Only the bandwidth consumed by your smart phone!
Now imagine if your operator charged you an extra fee for talking too much on Skype or sharing too many selfies with your friends on WhatsApp? What if your favorite e-commerce or video streaming site refuses to pay additional fees to your telecom operator and hence they decide to server it at a lower bandwidth vs its competition that agree to pay these charges?
That’s exactly the debate and a mini revolution-taking place in India against TRAI and the telecom operators trying to roll out services like Internet.org or Airtel Zero.
At the same time COAI and Telecom Operators are pushing TRAI to implement differential pricing for customers to access different types of services, site and apps like social networking, News, video streaming over the air using their network. If implemented, this will allow a telecom operator to charge access charges like 50p / 10 kb to access Twitter and Rs. 1.5/10kb for YouTube.
In view of the same TRAI has published a paper on its website, asking for public opinion on this topic, which has gone viral and has received in excess of 3 lakh+ responses from consumers all over India voicing their views and urging TRAI to implement #NETNEUTRALITY in India!
What this has done is that it has forced major e-commerce players in India to start pulling out of their association with Internet.org or Airtel Zero.
The response to TRAI and the growing angst against telecom operators has forced the center to intervene and in an response the telecom minister has said that the central government bats for net neutrality and is going to review the feedback it has received over the past few weeks and take a decision by 2nd week of May!
In all eventualities it seems that similar to United States; Chile, Netherlands and Brazil, India will hopefully soon adapt Net Neutrality and implement it as a law thereby classifying broadband as an ‘utility’, that could be regulated by the Government, which cannot be broken down and charged separately for differential services and all websites, services and apps to receive equal treatment in terms of speed and pricing on the telecom and broadband network.
Having said that very little is being said and talked about the real reason behind telecom’s trying to push for such differential pricing and speed treatment for apps and sites.
Taking a look into the recently concluded spectrum auction by the Indian Government, the Government received a total bid worth Rs 1, 09, 874. 91 crores from seven service providers!
Considering a base of 213 million Mobile Internet Users in India, and each paying an avg monthly fees of Rs 100.00 to their respective telecom service provider, it will take the telecom companies almost 48 months just to recover the cost of spectrum they have paid for!
This is not accounting for various other infrastructure cost, developments, pipes, cables and other operational overheads that a telecome operator must bear in order to make internet and data available to each and every users of it’s.
Teleco’s are hurting at the moment due to a very high operation costs in India, highly competitive and low call rates, the decline of the VAS revenue (which they are only to blame) and now a very aggressive and competitive data pricing, if net neutrality is implemented in India without thinking of how teleco’s it will end up hurting the overall service and quality provided to the end customers as no company not making enough money will continue to operate the way they are.
Implementing Net Neutrality is simply not the only solution, the telecom minister and the centrer government, TRAI and COAI need to work together and find a solution that makes net sustainable for everyone involved in the ecosystem from users to telecom operators, from businesses that rely on internet to the government, only then we will truly have an open and neutral net!
We are committed to the implementation of Net Neutrality not only in India but across the world. Internet is now a basic need and is much required for the development, education and empowerment of every one on the planet! It plays an anchor role in the development of under developed nations and to spread education and business to farthest corners of the world and must be treated as a Utility in lines with basic needs such as electricity and water and must be open for all without any major governing issues!
The article is authored by Viraj Mehta, Head, Marketing, Muvi; opinions expressed are personal