Net Neutrality dies in the US: What this means for India

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December 15, 2017 12:42 PM

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US has decided to end Net Neutrality. Here's what it means for the US. Will it affect India?

Net Neutrality ends in the USHere is a quick look at what does the end of Net Neutrality means for the US and India.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US has decided to end Net Neutrality. The rules under Net Neutrality has been in use since 2015, but after the vote, they have no place now. Net Neutrality essentially prevents Internet service providers (ISPs) from discrimination against websites, regarding speed and other aspects. The FCC has gotten rid of most of the regulations around ISPs, and according to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, it is a ‘light-touch framework’ for the web. While the decision will affect the US, other countries are also likely to get affected by it. Here is a quick look at what does the end of Net Neutrality means for the US and India:

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality essentially rules that ISPs have to treat all websites equally. It also means that your network provider cannot charge you more to give you access to certain websites. Additionally, the network provider also cannot give you access to particular websites for free, which happens when that website pays the ISP for the ‘free’ service. All in all, every data packet is supposed to be treated with equality, under Net Neutrality rules. For instance, if you are using a particular network to access the internet, it cannot put a separate charge for social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or anything else. Net Neutrality is important even more now since most network providers have their own set of websites and apps. But still, under net neutrality rules, they cannot throttle the speed of other websites or apps.

What is the FCC decision on Net Neutrality?

The US FCC has reversed the rules that have been in place for 3 years now. In 2015, the FCC had voted ISPs were not allowed to manipulate traffic. Following this, broadband providers had sued the commission for the rules. However, federal courts, in 2016, upheld the rules. But now, the Republican-led commission voted 3-2 in favour of revoking the old rules. According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, “It is time for us to restore internet freedom. We are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.”

What does the Net Neutrality decision mean for the US?

Immediately after the repealing of Net Neutrality rules, there could be protests and lawsuits against the decision. According to reports, pro-Net Neutrality activists will soon fight against the new rules. According to a Reuters report, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and at least two other state law enforcement chiefs said they will lead a multi-state legal challenge to the decision.

What does the ISPs say?

The ISPs are happy with the decision. AT&T senior executive vice president Bob Quinn said in a blog post that the internet “will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.” The company says it will not block websites and throttle traffic based on content. More responses are yet to come in. Meanwhile, The Internet Association, which is a group that represents tech giants like Facebook and Alphabet has said that they opposed the FCC decision.

What does this mean for India?

So far India has stood for Net Neutrality and says ISPs cannot offer discriminatory data packs. India’s strong stance on Net Neutrality also meant that Facebook’s Free Basics plan was eventually shut down in the country. However, since the US decision does not have a big influence on India, there may be some ripple effects since the internet is a borderless medium. Additionally, if this move has an effect on smaller companies, there will be tough times ahead for them to reach out to emerging markets like India. For example, a social media website like Facebook may not have reached India if previous giants like Orkut paid more to the service providers. This also means that if current biggies like Facebook pay more to ISPs in the US, smaller websites may find it tough to expand globally.

The decision to scrape Net Neutrality in the US also means that it may have an influence on smaller countries, where regulators may take similar positions. However, in India, Trai has already made its pronouncement on the vexing issue of net neutrality, when it had recommended that internet access must be treated in the manner you would treat a public good, that is for the benefit of all.

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