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AIB turns activist; ignites movement on net neutrality

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MUMBAI: Not long ago stand-up comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB) was directly or indirectly labeled as ‘anti-socials’ because of the controversial roast they uploaded on social media platform, which was eventually pulled down. The same group has now made a sincere attempt to explain the complicated concept of “Net Neutrality” to the common man. And their attempt has been successful with the video going viral and how.

Net neutrality is something that every taxpayer deserves but no one cares for. It’s often regarded as technical jargon. However, AIB’s “Save The Internet” video has changed the perception and now a lot of people are aware of the impending catastrophe.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality means every user will have the right to access whichever website she or he wants to. There will be no infringement from anybody and certain websites won’t be given more bandwidth than others. Amazon or The Times Of India, Flipkart or Indiantelevision.com, every website will load at the same speed and that is exactly what Net Neutrality means. And that’s the problem telecom operators have.

Where it started from:

Indian telecom operators lobbied to The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to change certain rules as per their convenience, which would have a direct impact on the consumer’s pocket. TRAI, in response to the telecos on 27 March, released a 118-page long consultation bulletin, which concluded by asking 20 questions. The last date to respond to that bulletin electronically is 24 April, 2015 while all the counter responses can be sent till 8 May, 2015.

What all can change?

No, telecom companies are not restricting any particular website so you can be rest assured that another ban is not coming into play. The demand is to access certain genres that users have to pay separately for. The question then arises: What are the users paying the initial fee for?

The scenario that can emerge from the change is; to access Flipkart, Whatsapp, Facebook or any other established OTT service, one has to separately subscribe for it. The freedom to access any website independently will be infringed upon and the internet, which is probably the only free platform where one can express their opinion, will become a claustrophobic cozy club dominated by big names.

Who all will face the impact?

Not only users but the change will also vigorously affect all aspiring entrepreneurs and start-ups. It is easy for established ventures like Flipkart, which is supporting telecom operators, to pay the service providers and ask them to make their app freely available. However, that will leave an impact on the start-ups who don’t have the luxury of cracking a deal with telecom operators. The irony is that when the Prime Minister is delivering speeches in France and Germany about how easy it is to do business in India and sharing aspirations of making the country a global destination for investment, Indian e-commerce startups are on the verge of demolition.

What did AIB do?

The stand up comedians came up with a video (Save the Internet) explaining the entire concept of net neutrality. What was lost and diluted in TRAI’s 118 page long complicated bulletin was garnished in AIB’s nine-minute video. The important points were highlighted and the refreshing yet simple explanation that AIB members’ offered in the video added to the appeal and was lapped up by young and old alike. The Net Neutrality jargon thus became a national movement.

What did AIB’s video do?

AIB’s video conveys this message - “Internet is not a luxury but a utility.” The video ends with a link, which directs people to the net neutrality home page where all of TRAI’s 20 have been answered in detail. One can simply click to send an email with the pre-written answers or can edit as per their wish. At the time of filing this report, AIB’s video had received 1,132,453 views and more than 100,000 emails had been sent to TRAI through the http://www.netneutrality.in/ website.

How to join the movement?

One can be a part of the movement by logging on savetheinternet.in and forwarding the email to the regulatory authority. One can also sign this petition at:https://www.change.org/p/rsprasad-trai-don-t-allow-differential-pricing-... and share it with your friends or write directly to TRAI at advqos@trai.gov.in about their thoughts before 24 April, 2015.

Conclusion:

The AIB video witnessed unabated praise across all social media platforms from the common man and celebrities alike. It brought about the necessary awareness in India and made Net Neutrality a national issue. The Internet is a very important part of the civilized world and a major source of information, entertainment and social networking. Net Neutrality is a right of every Internet subscriber and cannot be infringed at any cost. While the issue has managed to become a major talking point, one only hopes that political parties don’t politicize the issue and turn it into vote bank propaganda because Internet without Net Neutrality is like bones without flesh.

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