Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Takers of our freedom 0 - 1 Net Neutrality. But wait, there’s more.

So Flipkart has walked away from the net neutrality flaying Airtel Zero platform. And all because of the tenacity of aware and aligned web users. But there’s a storm coming... 
With Flipkart backtracking on their Airtel Zero association, Internet users across the nation have won a battle for net neutrality. But a war looms ahead.
As a nation, we now stand at the confluence of looming digital trends that are poised to propel us to immense heights as an advancing people: the impending 4G wave, increasingly affordable smartphones and ubiquitous broadband availability all point to a not-too-distant future that will, in greater ways, impart ever higher levels of convenience and efficiency in our daily lives.
As the nation’s consumers get online in droves--often with smartphones being the delivery mechanism of their first Internet experience--the entire ecosystem in India and the world will want a piece of this massive pie. From near-daily launches of new smartphones to web services that facilitate booking everything from a spa to a vacation, we as consumers are being lured from every conceivable direction.
In the excitement to woo (and corner) as many parts of the market as possible (while simultaneously keeping revenues at the forefront), we’ve seen that online businesses--both new and established--have flirted with business practices that haven’t always been above board. From sneaking in new consumer agreement clauses that result in consumers spending more to aiming to partner with telcos for furthering adoption of their own platform, it’s literally the Wild West out there.
In the face of such frantic movement and with the absence of a ratified legal framework that clearly defines what can and can’t be done in the online space, this entire Airtel Zero and Flipkart net neutrality issue was an explosion waiting to happen. But the upshot? It has made consumers sit up and take notice of the fact that their freedoms are at stake. The ensuing SaveTheInternet.in campaign has seen over 319,000 (and counting) mails being sent to the TRAI in under a week: an overwhemling indication of how close this has hit to home.
But now that Flipkart has unequivocally announced their detachment from the Airtel Zero platform while pledging wholehearted support to all things Net Neutrality, it begs questions: would they have done this had they not been at the receiving end of such a massive s***storm? Did this renege happen because of grand benevolence on their part or because the Internet milieu wised up to them? Also, how many more online service providers and cellular/broadband operators are waiting in the wings to sneak a quick one past us? The answers are likely to shock us, but the one lesson this episode has taught is that as a nation of Internet users, it pays to be vigilant.
The ball is clearly in the TRAI court as the deadlines to weigh in on the net neutrality issue approach. But until then, we cannot afford to let down our guard. We must always be on the lookout for any sign of transgression to our digital and online rights, as there are bound to be many.