India Embraces Full Net Neutrality As The U.S. Turns Its Back On The Concept

from the what-listening-to-the-public-looks-like dept

While the United States is busy giving the world a crash course on what telecom regulatory capture looks like, India is taking a decidedly different tack with net neutrality. Last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) began laying the groundwork for some real, tough net neutrality rules aimed at protecting their internet markets and consumers from anti-competitive ISP behavior. Here in the States, our soon-to-be-discarded rules left some fairly gaping loopholes governing “zero rating,” which allows ISPs to impose often arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps, then exempt their own content while hindering competitors.

But when the TRAI released its net neutrality guidelines (pdf) late last month, they made it clear that the rules would not only protect against throttling, blocking, or other ham-fisted anti-competitive behavior, but would also be putting the kibosh on zero rating. In previous statements, TRAI had made it abundantly clear that ISPs consistently use artificial scarcity and usage caps to engage in anti-competitive shenanigans via this practice (a realization the FCC in the United States only made after it was too late):

“…differential tariffs result in classification of subscribers based on the content they want to access (those who want to access non-participating content will be charged at a higher rate than those who want to access participating content). This may potentially go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff. Secondly, differential tariffs arguably disadvantage small content providers who may not be able to participate in such schemes. This may thus, create entry barriers and non-level playing field for these players stifling innovation. In addition, ISPs may start promoting their own websites/apps/service platforms by giving lower rates for accessing them.”

Indian consumers received a crash course on the downside of zero rating thanks to Facebook and its “Free Basics” program. Under the initial version of Free Basics, users obtained free access to a walled garden version of the internet, filled with Facebook-curated content. And while Facebook repeatedly tried to claim it was simply really concerned about helping poor Indian farmers, critics began to notice that Facebook was really just trying to corner the ad market. They also began to realize that letting the social media giant determine winners and losers online wasn’t a particularly smart idea.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg responded indignantly to these charges, arguing that those that didn’t like Facebook’s plan to AOL-ify the internet in India were simply enemies of the poor. But critics like the EFF persisted, noting that Facebook’s approval process not only banned sites that used encryption, but was even opposed by many content partners. Outfits like Mozilla, meanwhile, argued that if Facebook was so concerned with connecting the poor, why not pay to connect them to the actual internet and avoid any controversy?

Despite some pretty sleazy lobbying efforts by Facebook (including trying to trick users into opposing real net neutrality), Indian regulators proceeded last month to ban this and all other anti-competitive shenanigans, crafting what are now some of the toughest net neutrality rules anywhere. Not only is zero rating banned, but so are the more traditional ways ISPs try to abuse a lack of competition (throttling, outright blocking, unfair paid prioritization). Needless to say, net neutrality activists in India are thrilled that their regulators actually listened to consumers and innovators:

“The debate … that this ruling was about was essentially the same one that?s taking place in the US, about whether certain sites should be available at faster speeds,? said Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights activist who’s been a leader in India’s fight for net neutrality. ?And the Indian regulators essentially ruled that there needs to be non-discriminating practices by [internet service providers], where they don?t give preferential treatment to one side or the other.”

Pahwa has been a vocal advocate for net neutrality in India and was a key player in getting India to stop differential pricing for data services last year.

?Net neutrality ensures that there?s free and fair competition on the internet, instead of a situation without net neutrality where the [internet service providers] pick winners,? Pahwa said, adding that ?India?s been at the forefront of this battle.”

This is all of course the polar opposite of what’s now occurring in the States, where FCC boss Ajit Pai is preparing to obliterate what were already quite modest protections by international (Japan, Canada, India, The Netherlands) standards. And, much like the record 20+ million consumers that oppose Pai’s plan, Indian Americans are equally flummoxed by FCC boss Ajit Pai’s grotesque handout to what’s potentially the least-popular industry in America.

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Comments on “India Embraces Full Net Neutrality As The U.S. Turns Its Back On The Concept”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 As The U.S. Turns Its Back On The Concept

It is a joke where one plays with math to show the relationship.

Proof of the Dilbert Principle:
Time is Money
Knowledge is Power
Power = Work/Time

Substitute and solve for Money:
Money = Work/Knowledge

The limit of Money is infinity as Knowledge approaches zero. Therefore, the less you know the more you make, regardless of the work actually done.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: As The U.S. Turns Its Back On The Concept

Believe me, as a UK citizen who voted firmly against the idiocy of Brexit, nothing annoys me more than when people pretend that the entire country is behind any move since. Anything related to that mistake that starts “the UK wants to…” makes my skin crawl, a huge number of us want nothing of the sort. It wasn’t even a legally binding referendum, let alone a real consultation on what should be done, yet lots of people seem to think it’s a mandate.

But, the sad thing is, the US government are your representatives. You may not personally have elected them and they may be doing things that are completely against what you want. You might not even personally recognise that they won the election. But, they are your representatives on the world stage, and so it’s correct phrasing as it’s assumed they speak on behalf of the US.

The best thing to take from this kind of phrasing is to be more understanding of how politics around the world gets reported. Next time someone reports “country X wants to…”, bear in mind that there’s going to be plenty of people in that country who are still strongly opposed – and their government may not be giving them the same freedom to speak up about their real opinion as you are currently enjoying.

Anonymous Coward says:

I know this is maybe being a bit nit-picky but does this statement: “And, much like the record 20+ million consumers that oppose Pai’s plan” refer to the ~22 million comments that were submitted to the FCC for the repeal order?

If so that’s a little misleading as many of those comments (on both sides) were faked and not all were in support of NN (though the majority were and especially unique comments).

If that is what it is it should probably be changed to be a more accurate statement or if not then a source linked. No need to give the trolls on here any more fodder for pushing their anti-NN trolling.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“With or Without NN we are not going to see much change.”

Tell yourself that if it makes you feel better. It’s a lie, but if the “both sides are bad” rubbish is what you need to feed on in order to sleep at night, have at it.

“There are multiple ways for ISP’s to bilk you for money”

Without NN, that list grows exponentially, as the resources you have available to stop them shrinks. But, yeah, regulations don’t protect you from every danger, so might as well hand everything to those ISPs freely, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you want to waste your time fighting for 1% of the pie go ahead crumb eater. Just remember, you are only getting crumbs.

I want to make the choice for myself, not have a politician decide what I get to have with a “promise” to protect my interests. If you want to accept the lies be my guest, but you need to stop bitching when people are able to see right the fuck through you and the politicians.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Agree, NN has become politicized.

I agree and disagree with both sides on multiple things in regards to this bill.

I don’t hate NN, but I think chasing it is like chasing a rabbit down the hole. It will not protect us as much as people thinks it will.

If NN did more to break the monopolies up, then I would all over that shit and loving it. But no, it does not touch the monopolies, it just tells the monopolies what they should and should not do, wink wink.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Ok – so let’s vote on it.

No more hoping your rep gets it, they would have to support their constituents – The Horror!

I’m quite positive the phrase “Tyranny Of The Masses” will be used to argue against this because it has worked in the past, so why not. Certainly it is tyranny for the proles to demand a living wage while it is simply good business practice to minimize your payroll. Get you some slaves and America will be Great Again

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Indeed. Which tyranny would you prefer: that of the many of that of the few?

Why not accept that you can’t always get what you want but if you’re willing to accept that compromise is the cost of living as part of a community, majority rule leavened by the rule of laws that protect minorities is the way forward?

As I’ve said the left/right axis as a measure of personal freedom is a straw man. We should use an authoritarian V libertarian axis. Either extreme is bad, IMO, we need something in the middle.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Even beyond authoritarian / libertarian, it actually makes more sense (IMO) to use a multi-axis system.

The one I know best is the one presented by The Political Compass, which defines left/right as an economic axis and uses libertarian/authoritarian as the other axis.

They provide various plottings of historical figures and recent/current politicians, of various regions, on their chart, based on what is known of those people’s views.

They also provide a sizable "quiz" which you can use to determine where you fall on the chart. It’s not exactly unquestionable, but it seems reasonable from what I can tell.

Everyone I’ve ever gotten to take that quiz and let me know their result has come out "left libertarian", and most of them have been further in at least one of those directions than Gandhi. (This is probably reflective of sample bias more than anything else.)

By contrast, every US politician whom I’ve seen appear on the chart except Bernie Sanders has been in one of the other three quadrants – and the large majority of them, like the bulk of politicians and parties from elsewhere in the world, have been in the "right authoritarian" quadrant.

(Bernie, IIRC, was somewhat left of center and right about exactly at the zero point on authoritarian vs. libertarian.)

Anonymous Coward says:

fat chance

This won’t last long. The government of India has historically operated in an environment of endemic corruption, where practically nothing ever gets done unless money changes hands.

The Indian ISPs have been caught sleeping. Now that they’re awake, they’re not going to let regulators control them, because that’s not how the system works.

Narayan says:

Re: India corruption

India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. It has heavy regulation and nationalization of many industries.

Internet censorship in India is a common practice by both federal and state governments via DNS filtering. ‘Freedom House’s “Freedom on the Net 2016 ” report gives India only a “Partly Free” status with a rating of 41 (scale from 0 to 100, lower is better).

Thus India is poor model for the United States, but does show that giving government broad regulatory control over the internet results in serious content restrictions and censorship. American FCC has a long history of radio and TV censorship.

Be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: India corruption

It may not be for long in India; don’t forget about

India is the I in BRICS. Alternative DNS servers doesn’t mean alternative DNS of the form they’ve got now, but something more… manageable. With the ability to drop entire nations at the DNS level.

An Onymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 India corruption

The trouble with their plan is that they’ll need to somehow block access to every non-BRICS DNS server on the planet by IP. All you have to do on any computer to use whatever DNS servers you want to is change a couple minor networks settings. Anyone can do it. And all they need to know is an IP address or two for the DNS servers they wish to use.

There’s no way this plan for a BRICS internet will be fully capable of blocking out the rest of the world. Any IP on Earth could serve as a DNS or a proxy for one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:: India corruption

perhaps easily circumvented now, but the supposed main point here is praising India for fully embracing Net Neutrality — which allegedly protects internet consumers from content restrictions, or any need to “circumvent” such restrictions

Do you see the contradiction?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:: India corruption

Double speak is found everywhere, worldwide even.

Promises made by politicians are rarely kept, and yet the populace is expected to continue with their unquestioning belief in whatever is uttered – LOL, fearful people feign agreement in order to avoid punishment.

Is that sorta what you were getting at?

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