When Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook updated his profile picture with a tricolored tint accompanied by a statement ‘I support Digital India’, the online India devotedly responded by updating their profile pictures in a similar fashion. A few of them found it smelling fishy as they found the code Internet.org in the high-level language, which is meant to be understood by computer machines.
Now, as they thought they have successfully unraveled the plot of a conspiracy knot, they started sophisticatedly saying others, ’Hey! You know what you just did? You voted against Net Neutrality’. Even a few leading media publishers made stories with the same theme as they are hungry for news that sells well no matter how idiotic it sounds.
Thus, there are these three entities in the whole picture: Net neutrality, Digital India and Internet.org. Now let us try and understand how they are connected with each other. To begin with what is net neutrality? The answer is simple.
The world of internet connecting billions of people worldwide should be free and open and should not offer any unjust, unfair or impartial practices that affect the freedom and rights of the people using internet to consume content, understand it and then make decisions based on what they consumed. In short, the internet should be a democratic entity. For the people, by the people and of the people.
What is Net Neutrality?
To understand net neutrality, it is important to know the process in which information is generated and then transmitted to the consumer, who consumes information for decision making.
There are information generators, which can be anyone from a news channel, an e-commerce company, or those who sell videos for entertainment purposes, etc. Then, there are transmitters who transport these information to the consumers from the generators.
For instance, if you want to watch a movie on Netflix, you may use an internet connection of any of the Internet Service Providers to stream the movie on your device. Hypothetically, if Netflix pays the internet service provider to stream its movies faster than that of any of its competitors, people would prefer Netflix over its competitors to watch movies, because of the speed in which it streams.
Thus, the problem of Net Neutrality begins here. When a company pays an Internet Service Provider to prefer its products or services over its competitors’, the end-user would get to see only what the ISP prefers them to see. Thus, there will be a constriction in the amount of information that reaches the end-user, which would drastically affect their decision making.Thus, when there is no net neutrality, bigger companies can monopolize the market by stifling the lesser rich competitors, who cannot afford to pay the Internet Service Providers. These competitors will include start-ups as well, who will be having a severe budget deficit during the earlier stages.
The ISPs would be happy to have a less neutral Internet so that more money can be earned from these bigger companies who are ready to pay and monopolize the market. Eventually, the balance sheet of these bigger companies would ask the consumers to pay more, for no fair reason.
Internet.org and Net Neutrality
If you want to find a connection between Internet.org and the starting of the demise of net neutrality, you can definitely find one. But, very little are the chances that such an implicit connection to be true.
Before 2004, the world was not so much connected as it is today, and still there are more people who can be a part of this worldwide network. Internet.org is a channel to welcome them to this connected world. Thus, one way of doing it is by introducing them to the concept of the internet. Doing so, needs information generators and transmitters, without which it is an impossible task.
Calling this initiative the first step to no-net-neutrality is like saying don’t teach the kid the alphabets, as the world out there is very crooked. Thus, Internet.org should be seen as a platform that facilitates and cultivates the culture of internet among those audiences who have got no idea about the internet. Once these people become familiar with the internet, they always have the option to switch out from Internet.org, as they are not signing bonds to remain loyal for their life, by once signing up to it.What makes the detractors speculate Internet.org is very apparently the human tendency to get used to the products and services that they are very much exposed to. Thus, these basic services may remain the favorite for these masses, stifling the remaining competitors. Yes, possibly. But there is yet another human tendency that has taken everything to where it is now from when there was no electricity, roads, televisions and mobile phones. The tendency to evolve.
There is a strong belief that these people by knowing the concept of the internet would liberate themselves from the misfortunes of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and many other things that are undesired.
Amongst all these, net neutrality remains a mandate and a much-needed concept, agrees Facebook.
This is a government initiative to transform the country as the developed nations have adopted digital technology in everything. Hardly do the Indian public administration offices have shifted from dusty records to desktop computers.To keep up with the development pace of the rest of the developed countries, it is necessary to go digital. The initiative welcomes people to go digital and not reduce the prospect of going broadly digital. It is a need of the hour.
It is very obvious that there is a business motive involved in bringing these masses – who are unexposed to the internet – to our everyday world. Maybe the bigger companies are trying to target the untapped market through a biased internet. That is what businesses have always done and will continue to do. That is a part of the development story. That is how we have evolved and will continue to do so.
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