in India causes a flurry of discussion on net neutrality

Posted on February 26, 2015  /  0 Comments, Facebook’s effort to give people free Internet (or at least 38 websites and services that do not include Google) was launched earlier this month. This has resulted in a quantum leap in discussions of various aspects of net neutrality, including ones that connect the debate in the rich countries to our reality that is dominated by people who has no access to Internet of any kind. Here is a good example.

The critical question is “who is the target user of”. If it is the citizen uninitiated to the internet, he runs the risk of lack of options in accessing different kinds of content on the internet. But why not run that risk if he is unable to access any content on the internet as of now? Particularly when is available for free? Net neutrality then, is an empty concept for such a consumer. Prices are his real problem.

Upon the launch of, lawyer Prashant Reddy was quoted in the Hindu as saying, “One needs to see how the public understands the principles of net neutrality…There is no outcry when data packs are offered free but controversy erupts when a service provider tries to charge subscribers for services, as in the case of Airtel recently.”

This is a pertinent observation because it points to the very hollowness of the principle of net neutrality for a large swathe of the Indian population which cannot afford internet access, or avails itself of only extremely poor service quality even when paying for it. In essence, consumers are outraged at prices and what they get for it, not at the violation of some far-off principle.

The problem here is not the lack of understanding on the part of the consumer-citizen regarding the significance of net neutrality. The problem rather, is the theoretical poverty of net neutrality as a concept, when it just assumes access to the internet as a given.

In a country like India, where actual internet access is definitely not a given, advocacy on equal access to all content on the internet (in other words, net neutrality) becomes a moot point for most of the population. It is true that is no philanthropic mission to bring internet access. But unless net neutrality positions refine themselves and respond with equally usable, if not better, solutions, for the very real issue of internet access and pricing for consumers, nobody should judge an user.

Comments are closed.