Table of Contents:
What is Net neutrality???
Origin of Net neutrality…
What is Net Neutrality…???
o All sites must be equally accessible.
oThe same access speed at the Telco/ISP level.
o The same data cost for access to each site (per kb/mb).
Some of the rules suggested by Obama include:
No paid prioritization
• US President Barack Obama came in support of Net Neutrality
and ensures that “neither the cable company nor the phone
company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what
you can do or see online.”
• “The time has come to recognize that broadband service is of
the same importance and must carry the same obligations as
so many of the other vital services do.”
Origin of Net Neutrality:
• As of April 2015, there were no laws governing net
neutrality in India, which would require that all Internet users
be treated equally.
• The debate on net neutrality in India gathered public
attention after Airtel, announced in December 2014 to levy
additional charges for making voice calls (VoIP) from its
network using apps like WhatsApp, Skype etc.
1. Mobile app makers register with ‘Airtel
Zero’ to give customers free access to
2. Airtel informs customers about these
3. Customers download and access these
apps at zero data charges – and enjoy
their favorite online tasks (e.g.
entertainment, shopping) for free –
even with zero mobile balance.
• Before ‘Airtel Zero’-On 10 February 2015, Facebook launched
Internet.org in India with Reliance Communications. It aims to
provide free access to 38 websites through an app.
Without net neutrality, it would be very easy for ISPs to mould
the browsing habits of its users with the help of pricing slabs,
different speeds for different sites and other methods.
Net neutrality also ensures that small, new companies can
compete against established big names on the Internet fairly.
An ISP will get money from companies, that relationship may be
enough to compel the ISP to mute online criticism against one of
its paying partners.
Internet becomes a stratified mess and you will be forced to
choose packages of websites and services like you do with your
Unless the companies behind messaging and VoIP apps
decide to pay the government for licenses, you won’t be able
to use them.
“Jo mera hai woh mera hai”
TRAI recently published a consultation paper that almost
exclusively focuses on how many VoIP services, apps and websites
are taking undue advantage of the infrastructure set up by telcos
who spent bucket loads of money setting it all up.
A graph from the TRAI policy paper that shows drop in SMS use
A graph from the TRAI policy paper showing dropping growth of voice calls over mobile &
increasing growth of VoIP.
Telcos claim that without earning revenue from VoIP services and
websites like YouTube, they will be forced to either pass on huge costs
to the consumer or to accept massive losses.
ISPs argue that they can increase the overall efficiency of their
networks if they are allowed to ‘actively’ manage them.
ISPs also argue that adopting a blanket net neutrality policy will
give rise to security risks and increase piracy and cyber crime.
One of the more ideological arguments against net neutrality is
that it will give too much power to the government organization
that will be responsible for enforcing net neutrality.
“You should implicitly trust the ISPs because they
will always have your best interests at heart.”
Case Study :
• Justice Mathew of the Supreme Court in the 1972 Bennett
Coleman judgment, albeit in a minority opinion- endorses the
community’s right to read from a variety of newspapers over
the right of a few newspapers to circulate unlimited volume.
o A situation which when transposed to the internet could be
thought of as akin to only a few large internet content providers
like Google or Facebook using a major portion of the bandwidth
to make themselves reachable to the internet user.
So, its Net Neutrality as the Right to Equal Access to Speech.
• The majority opinion in Bennett Coleman case considers the
fact that in the precedent 1961 case of Sakal Newspaper’s, two
readers of the newspaper had petitioned against the
Government regulation which was reducing access to the
newspaper by fixing minimum prices for newspapers based on
the number of pages they carried.
• Such fixation of minimum price would have made one of the
cheaper newspapers—Sakal, more costly and other newspapers
as costly for the reader. So, How is then the reader supposed to
access any newspaper at all?
• The Court notably points out in the Sakal judgment, “Though
the prices of newspapers appear to be on the low side it is a fact
that even so many people find it difficult to pay that small
• Based on this reasoning, the Court holds that raising the price
of newspapers even by a small amount would result in people
not accessing newspapers. And this situation would be in
violation of Article 19(1)(a).
o This is also the story of those living in the shadow of the
digital divide, whereby Internet.org becomes the Sakal
newspaper of the digital age.
o Going by such thinking, one could make out an argument for
the right to access internet under Article 19(1)(a). If that is the
case however, then contrary to being in violation of Article
19(1)(a), Internet.org,Airtel zero can also be seen as an utter
vindication of the same!
So, its Reducing Digital Divide as Right to Access Information.
Circumstances so far…
• A massive online campaign named "Save The Internet“ has been
running to keep the internet free and fair.
• The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) soon
afterwards launched a counter campaign called Sab ka Internet,
Sab ka Vikas to connect the unconnected citizens of India and
demanded that VoIP apps should be treated as cellular operators.
• On 27 March 2015, TRAI released a consultation paper on over-
the-top services (OTT) and net neutrality for public feedback.
• On 5 May, in response to a question on net neutrality, Ravi
Shankar Prasad told Parliament that the Government agreed
with the view that blocking and deliberate slowing down or
speeding up of lawful content on the Internet should not be
• Recently, The new report, prepared by the Department of
Telecom (DoT), says net neutrality must be protected and that
"content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as
• Actually There are no laws enforcing net neutrality in
India. The Information Technology Act, 2000 also does not
prohibit companies from throttling their service in accordance
with their business interests.
What is more important?
o Pay a little extra in absence of Internet.org and like-services
and have equal access to a diversity of internet content?
o Or pay for a specific mobile connection and have free access
to the limited internet content offered by Internet.org?
What has or should have more priority in our formulation of
the freedom of speech?
o Access to the medium for the citizen or plurality of content
on the medium?
o Or prioritization of the rights of the consumers of content or
that of the rights of the creators of content on the internet?
What if a single user is both the creator and consumer
of content on the internet? What are the implications
Or should movement towards any such prioritization of
diversity over access, or trade-offs between the rights of
content creator over rights of content consumers be
avoided altogether; and we should be thinking of
completely new ways of formulating rights under freedom