Amidst the rise of net neutrality debate, free and non-discriminatory access to internet has raised hue and cry among many. N. Chandramouli, CEO TRA , publishers of the Brand Trust Report, says “More individuals, each day are becoming aware and more vocal about the net neutrality issue, the crux of the situation being simple - the idea that internet service providers give their customers equal access to all lawful websites and services on the internet, without giving priority to any website over another. At one level, it is being linked to the right to freedom of expression and the right to information and correctly so. From a brand point of view we can already see it is impacting and hampering the equation with telecom brands such as Airtel, decided in December 2014 that they would charge more for calls made through services like Skype and Viber, but had to roll back the decision after outrage on social networks.“
Here is a short background on Net Neutrality (reference: TRAI’s consultation paper on Regulatory Framework for OTT services/ Internet services and Net Neutrality):
On April 22 the Indian telecom regulators are preparing to recommend that changes are required in the current telecom regulatory framework. Telecom operators are concerned primarily because of the excessive use of internet leading to congestion and bandwidth difficulties. 10% of mobile users actually consume 90% of operators’ bandwidth. Internet companies are not in favour of regulation that could tilt the balance in favour of telecom operators, but are advocating legislation to keep the internet open.
Media apps clearly seem to be one of the few services that are earning large revenues for the Internet companies, revenues coming mainly from advertising. In India, with 4% broadband penetration, the challenges to be faced by the broadcasting industry are yet to materialise. The India's active Internet video subscribers (on mobile) in 2014 were 12 million, expected: 15 million by 2015.
Allowing telecom operators to charge fees from content producers can result in operators "competing" for content, by charging different fees for different content providers. This could lead to a fragmentation—where certain content would only be available on certain telecom operators, —and hence multiple "internets".
Key pointers :
• The underlying idea of an open internet is that all internet resources and the means to operate on it are easily accessible to all.
• The ability of smaller and start-up Apps to compete with established Apps may be affected if they are unable to secure access to specific telecom operators or afford access-tiering charges, particularly if a Telecom Operators with market power reaches an exclusive arrangement with an established App or where smaller Apps are unable to secure affordable access. This may deter start-ups from joining the market.
• There are concerns that telecom operators will discriminate against certain types of content and political opinions. This will hurt consumers and diminish innovation in apps and content spaces.
• Discriminatory pricing proposals can raise anti-competitive concerns. Telecom players will favour their own services, applications, and content and to kill competing services.