UNDERSTANDING NET NEUTRALITY AND FREE BASICS

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These days internet and newspapers are all on net neutrality and Free Basics by Facebook. But do we know what exactly these terms mean and how much important they are in shaping our internet. If not,then don’t worry! EasyShiksha will clear all your doubts and give a clear picture on what these really mean in short.

What is Free basics?

First of all, it wasn’t called Free Basics until September 2015. Formerly, it was known as Internet.org. Free Basics is a Facebook’s non-profit initiative that aims to bring Internet connectivity to the underprivileged in developing regions. Under Free Basics, Facebook is offering a range of services for free to thousands of users.

But advocates and enthusiasts in the country are strongly encouraging users to discard Facebook’s initiative. Here where net neutrality comes into picture.
It is around these questions that the net neutrality debate is raging across India and the world. In this article, EasyShiksha guides you through what net neutrality is, as well as the raging debate in India, while also pinpointing the developments that have taken place in this space.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that individuals should be free to access all content and applications equally, regardless of the source, without Internet service providers discriminating against specific online services or websites. In other words, it is the principle that the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet.

So how does FREE BASICS violates net neutrality?

The bone that net neutrality activists have to pick with Free Basics is that it is a zero-rating platform, in that it provides free access to a limited number of services, but not to all. That it’s not bringing unlimited access to the Internet to people, but access to a very small subset of the Internet.
Free Basics users can’t access websites and services that aren’t currently approved by Facebook. This approach defeats the basic fabric of net neutrality – Facebook defends itself on this front however, saying any websites and services can apply to be a part of Free Basics, while any telecom operator can offer it to their subscribers. It has also maintained that joining up is free, and that current partners have not paid it to be part of the Free Basics platform. This doesn’t answer the question of why the platform has the concept of approval and rejection at all.

How does the regulation work?

The good thing is that Facebook doesn’t have the authority to do whatever it desires, and that authorities are taking public opinion into account before they pass a network neutrality regulation. Trai, the independent regulator of the telecommunications business in the country, regulates all Internet access in India and is seeking our opinion on whether Free Basics or any other programs should be introduced, with its latest consultation paper.

What can you do?

Trai is inviting comments on a consultation paper on “differential data pricing,” where users are charged different amounts (or not at all) depending on which app, website or service they are consuming data on. If you are against Facebook’s Free Basics, you can email your comments to Trai directly at the above mentioned address or you can go to SaveTheInternet.in to quickly send a pre-written response in this regard.