Just like how Hollywood movies used to release in India (months after its US premiere) until a few years ago, the Network Neutrality debate has finally landed in India almost a year after peaking the mainstream in the US of the A. Not surprisingly everybody (who makes money via the Internet [read as YouTube]) has put their heart and soul in parading against the curb of Internet freedom, voicing against Facebook-Reliance tie ups or Airtel Zero-Flipkart deals and what not. With Internet Freedom paraders on one side and the TSP (Telecom Service Providers) on the other, either of them are trying their best to voice their end of the argument being fairly absolute. Though TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has joined the party pretty late, their premise of request for comments from public has not really been 'Neutral' per se but just turned up to be a fancy judge between two fighting parties.
However, you might be surprised that there is huge degree of real 'Net Neutrality' that is actually missing. With the current debate raging between this way or that way, everyone somehow are missing the middle path that is technically 'The Neutral' path too.
Prior to looking at what the middle path is and how it retains the NN (Net Neutrality), Internet has to be first looked upon on what it is in the current state. One of the most common take of the NN supporters is for the Internet to remain a non-partisan and non controlled information access medium. A few facts to the better understanding of all the NN supporters as well as to set the context of this case.
Did You Know?
- Internet was neither envisioned nor designed (in first place) to be Neutral.
- Each of the application protocol standards that has evolved have always found wanting of a preferential treatment of their packets called QoS (Quality of Service) in their own respective ways.
- The existing unbundled Internet medium is not a factual endorsed NN view point but a skewed one-sided end-user centric setup.
Hence in the true spirits of holding NN as a supreme goal a middle path has to been drawn where it has to be clearly regarded a SIN
- If end-users say or expect Skype calling and Wikipedia Browsing to be one and the same.
- If TSPs decides to provide selective applications the entire bandwidth and QoS while some similar other applications are left to suffer.
What is the Middle Path?
- Everybody (from NN supporters to TSPs) need to understand that real NN can only be delivered practically if all of us joined hands in our respective roles, agreements and understandings.
- End-users should be made clearly aware of the application level impact and differences on the existing Protocol level differences between, for instance a Skype call & a Wikipedia browsing (aka VoIP and HTTP) and on why treating both as the same is making the idea of real NN void.
- The OTT (Over The Top) should be broadly categorized into different group based their network necessity.
- The TSPs should hold the same level playing field for all OTT applications in every category without any preferential QoS whatsoever for either of them.
- It is high time that the TSPs create category specific (NOT application specific) bandwidth channels so that end-users have the flexibility to choose and subscribe accordingly based on their needs.
With the current trend of support and lobbying growing on either sides, TRAI is either going to lean to this end (leave Internet as such) or that end (bring in model for charging OTT) sometime real soon which at the end of the day is NOT Network Neutrality in the truest of senses! I shall still pin my hope on for sanity to prevail and Network Neutrality in the purest of forms come into existence!
People who demand neutrality in any situation are usually not neutral but in favor of the status quo.