Net Neutrality vs Zero Rating

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The phrase ‘Net Neutrality’ is a phrase that has been gaining ground for the past couple of months around the world, urging and insisting on the rights of global civilians for the availability and use of free internet. The Net Neutrality provisions coined by the EU parliament last year suggests the refrain of specialized services like ‘fast lanes’ used by telecos to the detriment of the availability and quality of internet access services. Across the Atlantic, on the other side, things took a different turn in the United States when the FCC laid out new rules that let the big cats like Google, Netflix and Disney pay the internet providers a tad more for special fast lane services (Zero Rating) to send video and other content to their customers for free. That being said, which is a more just stand to take?

Digital Fuel Monitor Data is against Zero Rating, especially with the orchestrated launch of Zero Rated apps over their mobile networks in the EU markets, mainly because it reckons that the same sabotages Net Neutrality. Zero Rating encourages the service providers’ own apps and as well as their partners’, not counting it against the end-user’s data volume, which in a way weakens the idea and purpose of Net Neutrality. News suggests that AT&T in the United States in 2014 flirted with Zero Rating with its then latest launch ‘Sponsored Data’ that allowed developers and brands to pay them for delivering content to consumer smart phones and tablets outside their data caps.

The case isn’t too different if you turn the globe eastward and land the compass on India. With Information Technology making its rocking world go around, the fast developing nation’s people are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of not having its Net Neutrality in place. This has intensified and propelled especially after a couple of service providers tried roping enterprise biggies such as FlipKart for their Zero Rating idea. There’s a viral awareness spreading at the speed of light in India that screams that Zero Rating propagates price-discrimination and unjustly favors telecoms’ own or their partner’s apps while placing competing apps at a disadvantage.

Although the idea that big companies or brands can get robust amounts of data and slip them into their customers’ hands may sound like a sweet deal at first, it may not just be. This is owing to the reason that the cost of access invariably kicks up for the apps that have not been enrolled with this platform. What’s more critical is that India has a high price-conscious economy, where free offerings gets more eye balls than the converse. The sugarcoated idea of Zero Rating can have adverse affects on budding start-up ecosystems, mainly because a scrappy app developer or a newbie brand may not have the bandwidth to play the game as much as heavily funded players.

What’s more, it could also pave way for a monopolized market, a place where non-level playing field would have no reason to take incentives to innovate or launch better products, which could be the real downfall. The recent uproar against Zero Rating has got over 300,000 emails knocking on the doors of TRAI, urging it to consider Net Neutrality in one of the biggest democracies in the world. Will it work? And if it did, would it be worth it?

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