Net neutrality and law

WHAT IS NET NEUTRALITY

nuetralityNet Neutrality is one of the major areas of concern regarding Internet. It affects the regulation of the infrastructure of Internet. In general, each packet of data sent and received by an internet user passes through routers, transmission infrastructure owned by a collection of private and public entities which may include telecommunication companies, government, universities and other service providers.

Basically, net neutrality means providing equal treatment by the Internet Service Provider to all the content, websites and other platforms. The Internet service provider who provides internet services, can control the flow of data in their infrastructure by the way of determining which packet of data moves through them first, which moves next, which does not move at all.

Internet developed on its own limb and imbibed the concept of neutrality at large. The net users can surf any website and download anything they want since the service providers of the internet did not differentiate various kinds of content.

But, the Internet Service Providers no longer want to stay neutral and argue that providing bandwidth, infrastructure costs huge. In order to cover the costs and in their business interests be allowed to charge variable rates from the content providers and users.

Presently, content providers do not pay different amounts in accordance with the kind of content, moreover they pay a uniform amount and service providers do not prioritize the contents. In contrast, of ISPs are allowed to charge the content provides differently, this would enable them to transfer data packets containing content, data in a prioritized order depending on rent paid by content provider.

This act of prioritizing the contents is against net neutrality. If Internet is not allowed to be neutral, an ISP would give preference to sites which pay more or with which they have some collaboration. The service providers can also block the content that is against their business interests.

IMPORTANCE OF NET NEUTRALITY

The net neutrality is needed to ensure net users have access to whatever data or whichever website they want as the sites are not differentiated or prioritized by service providers. It is essential to assure that Internet remains an open and free platform promoting innovation, competition and interest of net users.
The websites started by small businesses, entrepreneurs might not be able to pay extra for getting their websites prioritized by ISP’s thereby lagging behind and incurring more time for loading of their websites.
Internet is free, independent in its neutral state and in ethical sense helping to spread democratic values, providing intelligent content and independent news across the globe.

POSITION OF NET NEUTRALITY LAW– GLOBAL LEVEL

The net neutrality laws are in place only in a few countries and South America being the first nation to approve net neutrality laws. Net neutrality law of Chile forbids an ISP from blocking, interfering, hindering, discriminating, or restricting the right of any net user of using, sending, receiving, offering any application, content or other services through the Internet.

In recent times, Denmark also passed a new net neutrality law that prohibits service providers of Internet from charging higher fees, slowing down applications, sites available on the net. The privacy concerns of the net user are addressed by the Dutch Law which requires the ISPs to seek consent of the net users before placing cookies on the computer of the user thereby protecting the net user’s data.

A cookie is a small piece of information that is generally sent by a web server and stored on a web browser. In US, FCC (Federal Communication Commission) has provided guidelines favouring net neutrality under its National Broadband Plan. However, these guidelines cannot be considered as laws and are not enforceable legally.

POSITION OF NET NEUTRALITY LAW IN INDIA

Currently, in India there is not much development regarding net neutrality law. The TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) in its guidelines for the issue of access service license to provide Unified Access Service also includes Internet. It promotes the principle of non-discrimination by prescribing an obligation on licensee to provide services to subscribers without any discrimination.

It is also essential for the ISP’s to provide other licensees access to their services without discrimination. The Information Technology Act does not however, provide any regulatory provisions regarding access to the internet and does not expressly prohibit a service provider from controlling the net for his business interest.

IMPORTANCE REGARDING NET NEUTRALITY LAW IN INDIA

The information technology is growing at a fast pace in India showing a tremendous increase in Internet usage and users. The advent of latest technology like mobiles, touch tablets, i-pads and other gadgets has contributed to the unprecedented growth of net users enabling internet access with a touch anywhere across the country.

With 3G technology hitting Indian Market, there is a sharp rise in the mobile users. This indicates a higher probability of network clogging which is beginning to start in India and in such cases; it would be possible that the service provider might impose premium rates for download or surfing endangering net neutrality.

It is necessary to ensure net neutrality to promote fair competition and provide growth opportunities to small, medium businesses operating on the Internet as they will not be able to pay high costs for prioritization. The slowing down on the basis of content, price would also have an effect on the speed of global traffic and will hinder the increasing Internet use.

To conclude, net neutrality is turning into one of the critical aspects of Cyber Law which might have immediate jurisdictional implication, as laws in one jurisdiction can potentially have dramatic effects in other jurisdictions when telecom companies or host servers are affected. Net neutrality is based on the principle that ISP’ must treat all the Internet content equally in terms of speed, access and pricing. Therefore, this principle needs to be protected since providing a free hand to the ISP’s, other telecom operators can result in censorship, establishing anti competitive prices. Internet is an open network providing free flow of information and hope it continues to be so.

SAI SUSHANTH,
FINAL YR MS IN CYBER LAW AND SECURITY,
NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, JODHPUR

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