Switch off for net neutrality

With net neutrality becoming the hottest debate across the country, netizens are pledging to turn off data services to send a message to TRAI

April 24, 2015 05:35 pm | Updated 05:35 pm IST - Hyderabad

With the internet’s success in fostering innovation, access to knowledge andfreedom of speech are the main demands of internet users

With the internet’s success in fostering innovation, access to knowledge andfreedom of speech are the main demands of internet users

It is the hottest debate this season. News shows and parliament debates apart, it’s the one topic that is dominating most office water cooler and coffee table conversations. With the whole country up in arms for net neutrality, several online events are being created to send a petition to TRAI to showcase their stand against corporates from controlling what we can access on the Internet. The online events all designed to battle for net neutrality encourage invitees to switch off – data services, sign online petitions and also deactivate facebook accounts for a limited period of time in a bid to showcase internet slow down.

For instance, Frog Walks Out, a facebook group has created an event prompting internet users to join the movement by switching off all data services, broadband connections, DTH services and mobile phones on April 25 between 12p.m. and 1p.m. Their FB event states, “You have the power, not TRAI or any telecom operator. It’s called the switch off button… Let the loss of data traffic and voice, thunder.” Another event urges internet users to deactivate their facebook accounts. Called the Facebook Blackout, the event says, “Facebook has been violating net neutrality through its internet.org initiative, which is a very dangerous thing. We need to send a clear message to Facebook that this will not be tolerated. Deactivate Your Facebook Account For One Day on 24th April, which is also last date to reply to TRAI on Net Neutrality debate.”

With the internet’s success in fostering innovation, access to knowledge and freedom of speech are the main demands of internet users signing up for these online events. According to Abhilash Jain, a student, “I’m going to switch off data services on my phone on Saturday along with several like-minded friends to prove my stand for net neutrality. I don’t think I would be comfortable with the idea of someone controlling what I am able to access on the internet just to maximise their profits. The right to knowledge and Freedom of Speech are the most basic rights we can demand.”

“Net Neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that Internet service providers should provide us with open networks — and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn't decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn't be concerned with the content you view or post online,” says Inas Inayath, a second year St. Francis student, who feels quite strongly about net neutrality. “Without net neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the Internet into fast and slow lanes. Blocking data services and deactivating facebook is all right, but we need to come up with a more concrete plan of action to ensure that our rights are preserved,” she adds.

Manoj Surya, manager of CIE at IIIT-Hyderabad, says, “Personally I believe net neutrality is very important and I’m going to be doing my part to lend my support for the movement as well. Coming from a start-up background, I understand the need for a free internet space so everybody gets an equal platform, without one trumping the other due to the fact that they have been able to strike a deal with a mobile company. It will restrict innovation.”

However, there are others who are all right with regulation to some extent. “I am aware about the facebook deactivation drive. I’ll definitely switch off my data to support net neutrality, but at the same time I’m not completely against a particular company controlling certain websites. I think there is a need for transparency for regulation and for making the internet costlier or cheaper for certain companies. In principal I am for net neutrality but I am also open to looking at regulation that may favour certain corporates, provided the regulation gives everybody an equal footing,” he says.

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