SME Times News Bureau | 20 Apr, 2015
An Internationally acclaimed Cyberlaw expert, Author and Jurist, Karnika Seth stands up for Net Neutrality. In an email interaction she claimed that Net Neutrality is the Oxygen of Internet.
She is the Managing partner of well established law firm Seth Associates & Founding partner of Lex Cyberia that specialisses in Cyberlaws practice.
Excerpts of her views…
NET NEUTRALITY IS THE OXYGEN OF INTERNET.
Karnika Seth: The fundamental rubric of Internet is its neutrality. When we avail broadband services from any broadband provider, we expect it to remain neutral as opposed to prefer a particular website so that it does not over charge or waive off charges for downloading or uploading or alter its speech based on preferential treatment. Internet is a powerful platform of information dissemination and communication and it is only so because it treats all businesses on a level playing field and gives equal opportunity to one and all to thrive on the internet space.If this net neutrality is compromised, it will take away elixir of Internet –its oxygen or the driving force!. This is the reason why Airtel Zero plan received much criticism and strong reactions from netizens compelled Flipkart withdrew its ongoing negotiations with Airtel.
Although the IT Act,2000 does not specify any provisions on Net neutrality, in a country which guarantees Freedom of speech and expression and confers on its citizens the Fundamental Right to Equality , introduction of a policy contrary to Net Neutrality will infringe on rights of its citizens to Equality and Free Speech depriving it of a platform which treats all on a level playing field. Internet is seen , perceived and experienced as a free platform and its quintessence should remain preserved. Net Neutality is a principle we must uphold as it will promote innovation and sustain fair competition and transparency on Internet.
TRAI is considering a proposal to charge OTT ( Over the Top) service providers such as Faceboook , Whatsapp that allow VOIP / messaging services to use the revenues generated therefrom to maintain and develop telecom infrastructure. It is as if a heavier toll tax has to be paid by a high demand common carrier for using the toll road more frequently than another carrier. While a small carrier may not afford it, a high demand carrier may be able to due to high profits he generates which will end up monopolizing the space! Question then is , Is it fair? Is it Fair Competition?
TRAI can also introduce Applications that deliver similar services as Whats app and compete freely in the internet space. It also generates enough revenue by charging for broadband services as huge amounts of data is downloaded by a user each day.
While I do agree that there needs to be a regulation on the internet, even service providers like Whatsapp, Facebook need to be secure, accountable and need to follow some regulations. Yet what I donot agree with is the fact that just because TRAI is unable to face competition , it infairly proposes to levy a charge on OTT service providers.
I stand for Net Neutrality & endorse Freedom of speech, equality and Transparency in cyberspace!
(You may write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)