India hits the neutral gear

Trai is passing a ruling against Free Basics and Airtel's zero rating plan.

Netizens fell prey to social media giants, claiming to connect Indians through the Internet. Called the Free Basics campaign — the first step by Facebook to connect one billion Indians to jobs and education online — their claim to boost India’s untapped market. Naturally, displaying the classic example of herd mentality, the public decided to support this initiative, as well other service providers’ plans for offering discriminatory tariffs for data services used. However, with those like Mahesh Murthy, and Kiran Jonnalagadda voicing their opinions in favour of net neutrality, a slow but strong revolution started. Finally, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India passing a ruling against Free Basics and Airtel’s zero rating plan, let’s see what the reactions of social media experts and the public have been like.

Co-founder of Wow Labz, Rohith Veerajappa says, “First of all, even with the ban I don’t think most people know the difference between Free Basics and net neutrality — the mass population just blindly follows few influencers. Coming to the point, foreign giants like Facebook and Google are all about people’s identity; they slowly begin to understand people’s likes dislikes, where they spend money and more, and tap into that market, converting the identities into digital currency. They’re forcing people to go down a road they built and are steering people’s spending how they want it to be,” he says. “However, net neutrality was needed to evade this. If such agents really want to provide us with Internet, why not do it at the existing costs?” he questions.

Free Basics is like old wine in a new bottle —the British invaded India with the intention of doing good, but we all know what happened. Mark Zuckerberg is doing the same thing now, feels Kiruba Shankar, a professor of digital marketing.

Markets like the US and UK have already reached a saturation point when it comes to social media, but India is just opening up its doors to it. Which is why service providers and media platforms are trying to tap this market,” Kiruba says. But what makes him proud is that social media has finally come of age — “People realised what Facebook was trying to do, so they stood up and fought against it, on Facebook itself!” he explains Swarna Rajagopal, founder of a Chennai-based NGO Prajnya, in a submission online, rightly said social media and Internet is not just for men, but for women as well to express their points of view. “I actually never really got to know what net neutrality was until Free Basics had come into the limelight — I thought it was a man’s thing,” says 22-year-old Prakriti Shah. “I did initially support Zuckerberg. After getting to know about net neutrality I won’t say that I fully started to support it, but I felt the fact that it negates differential pricing, which unlike Free Basics, allows unlimited access to websites or applications.

“I was following the issue right from the time Airtel announced its zero rating plan,” says Lakshmi R Nair, a consultant with Infosys. “I figured that Facebook was just confusing us with fancy terms thrown around,” she says adding, “I found it quite comical how people started opposing Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook itself! It was quite condescending and even offensive they thought they could tell rural India about which sites they can access and not - I didn’t see an ounce of goodwill in it,” she concludes.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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