Net Neutrality: Reading more than just economics

The issue of net neutrality has taken the social media by storm. Over 100,000 emails have been sent to TRAI through the website to plead for net neutrality. Videos are being shared to explain the issue to a wider audience (the latest one by AIB, of the infamous roast fame, has gone viral), endearing them to add their names to petitions pleading against any move to dilute the principle of net neutrality. The pro net neutrals are rooting for ‘saving the last bastion of equality’ which will be lost once the corporates takeover. They would be able to manipulate preferences, making it hostile to start-ups, small businesses and basically anyone who cannot pay. The anti- net neutrals gives the familiar neoliberal price/competition argument – the need to price supply as per demand allows for beneficial allocation in an increasingly shrinking space, and that those who put in the infrastructure should be incentivised (by the profit motive) to invest in making the space better.

As the battle continues, beyond the economics and technicality of the issue lie our worldview, one being framed by atomistic consumerist preferences and the constant compromise equality/ democracy makes in the onslaught of the Neoliberal- systems of economy and society we have nurtured (albeit sub/unconsciously), and affirm as the mainstream.

But first some quick facts.

What is net neutrality?

The principle that all content on the internet should be treated equally- one can access all websites (with equal speed of connection, on all possible devices), once you have internet access.

What is equal access?

Non-discriminatory access and equal distribution of content basically means that service providers should

not create high speed lanes for certain services (such as by, say, collusions between content providers and internet service providers to allow users to access their content much faster- making shopping at say, Ebay, much faster than rival Flipkart when using a certain ISP) and charge excessive tariffs based on demand and paying capacity of the user

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