Net Neutrality, a concept that has been highly debated in the US, has caught fire in India only recently. In plain English – Net Neutrality means that all internet data traffic is treated equally – just like electricity. We pay for electricity based on units consumed and we can use it for any device. Similarly Internet access should have a simple pricing structure – cost per unit of data (Kb, Mb, or Gb) and should be treated as a utility.
What if there is no law or regulation for Net Neutrality? Crazy things will start happening. Recently Airtel wanted to charge separately for free VOIP services.
It is as crazy as the electricity company saying that you have to pay extra for electricity if you use Sony TVs instead of Samsung TVs at home. In such an imaginary case, the electricity company can take bribe from Samsung for promoting them. Such things are not possible with electricity. But with Internet, such things are possible.
When certain services over the internet are charged higher and others are not, it disrupts balance in the internet ecosystem. For example, Airtel could start charging more for watching YouTube videos because people are watching more YouTube videos and using less of Airtel Dish TV. This is one way where balance is disrupted.
Another way how things get messy is that, the ISPs can charge the service provider to deliver access to its users. For example, Indian ISPs can ask Skype and other VOIP service providers to pay them a fee to reach the audience. It is similar to a private road company charging a shopping mall a fee if people want to use their roads to come to their mall.
Here’s a simple video which explains the importance of Net Neutrality:
Now you understand what Net Neutrality is, let us discuss how it affects digital marketing for the common man and business owner.
Digital marketing is so powerful because the Internet has removed the middle man.
Earlier, with traditional marketing medium, the evil media company was in the middle of the business owner and the customers.
Business owners had to pay the media companies an advertising fee to reach the audience. The medias – TV, Radio, Newspaper and Magazines had access to the audience and they guarded it well.
Now the middle man wants to come back. This time it is not the media companies but the ISPs who control access to the audience. They are going to set the rules.
With such an ecosystem only the people who already have the money will be able to have the reach they want. A group of 3-4 people wanting to innovate from a small room in Bangalore cannot compete with the big giants. The playing field will not be level again.
Without innovation from small timers, there is no competition. Without competition, there is no innovation in big companies. In the end, we will end up paying more for mediocre products and services and disruptive innovation which has been improving our lives will come to a grinding halt.
Net Neutrality is not a simple thing. It is a serious issue. Fortunately for US, Barack Obama has given a very clear statement that their administration will protect Net Neutrality in the interest of its citizens. Here’s a video by Obama about Net Neutrality:
The FCC in the US is yet to pass a law to protect Net Neutrality.
India has a bad history of crony capitalism. My worst fear is that the government, instead of protecting its citizens will help the ISPs make more money. We citizens should not allow this.
What are you going to do to protect your Internet?
- Net Neutrality Campaign for India
- #NetNeutrality, the fight is still on – Weblog of Vijay Anand
- Why Airtel Threatens the Future of Tech in India – Weblog of Vijay Anand
- The winners and losers in the landmark net neutrality ruling – GigaOm