January 29th, 2016
After the TRAI decided to allow telecom companies to turn the internet from an all-you-can-eat buffet into an a la carte menu.
The Logical Indian Community sent a staggering seven million answers to TRAI in support of net neutrality.
In early 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a paper suggesting that telecom companies could be allowed to charge differently for different websites or applications we accessed on the Internet. The TRAI also notified the public of twenty questions they had to answer about what the policies for the use of Internet should look like. Along with this, the public was also asked to send emails in support of net neutrality. At the Logical Indian, we believed very strongly that Net Neutrality was of utmost importance. Net neutrality allows us to have the choice to visit and experience every site or application equally without any discrimination in terms of price, speed or availability from a telecom company. This freedom allows us to create, communicate and collaborate with people across the globe and for businesses to combine audio, video and text, and so on. The challenge was to convince the TRAI that Net Neutrality was the way to go for India.
In order to successfully motivate the public to send emails and answer questions as directed by the TRAI, the Logical Indian set up a campaign under the name ‘#IndiaWantsNetNeutrality’. TLI published close to thirty articles, starting from educating the public about Net Neutrality and why it is important ranging all the way to directly imploring them to respond to the TRAI.
The Logical Indian encouraged its community members to read the reddit India thread on net neutrality. To visit Netneutrality.in, which spoke about how to lobby the Prime Minister in their favour. Everyone was also asked to sign the change.org petition, which already had 80,000 signatures when the campaign had started, asking for net neutrality to be enforced. Community members were also requested to support Medianama, in their efforts to create responses to the TRAI consultation paper.
Finally, everyone that TLI could reach out to, was asked to respond to TRAI individually.
The country witnessed one of its most constructive public discourses which was non-violent as well as circumspect. Despite majority of the replies being sent through Facebook, there was a considerably large number of replies that came from other forums as well which had not happened before. This consultation paper had one of the largest number of respondents, which speaks volumes about the quality and reach of the net neutrality campaign.
The major contribution to the debate were also from All India Bakchod(AIB) and E-commerce websites and from individual personalities like Nikhil Pahwa, Mahesh Murthy and others.
On 8th February, 2016 the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India issued the ‘Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016’ that upheld net neutrality.
The ‘Here and Now’
The chief telecom regulatory body has ruled that:
■ Service providers cannot offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
■ A service provider may, however, reduce tariff for accessing or providing emergency services.
■ A penalty of Rs. 50,000 a day will be levied for discriminatory tariffs charged by service providers.
■ TRAI may review these regulations after a period of time.
A true community victory for the country, every email and every answer sent to the TRAI was what made this possible. Once again, India has shown us that when people from different walks of life come together for a cause, the results are always in favour of the greater good.