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Fight for net neutrality unites internet

Fight for net neutrality unites internetNEW DELHI: For once, the constant bickering on the internet and social media has been put aside. People of all beliefs and affiliations have come together to unite on the net neutrality issue, campaigning, persuading, and getting more people involved.

In a span of 24 hours, over 27,000 emails have been sent to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) through the responding to the regulator's call for public consultation. An online petition has nearly 150,000 supporters petitioning Union minister for communication and information technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the department of telecom, and the TRAI to act against the violation of net neutrality by corporate interests. A visit to the r/india forum Reddit will show you backroom activities in coordinating online campaigns and debates on the same. 

Put together by a group of netizens, has a ready template response to the 20 questions that TRAI posed in its 118-page long consultation paper on the regulation of over the top (OTT) services, or services that use the internet through telecom service providers (TSPs), like Viber, Skype, Whatsapp etc. This paper is what has prompted the wave of activism online.

On, one can choose to edit the response before sending it - a two-click process. The answers are in favour of net neutrality and offer arguments against the slicing up of the Internet into various services available at differential prices. 

The questions pertain to the licensing and regulation of these services, the competition they pose to TSPs by providing the services like calling and texting, and their role in investing in the internet infrastructure. Overall, they cover how different data packets travelling across the internet (voice or text or transactions) should be treated differently, if at all. That is the point central to the net neutrality debate. And as it moves further, questions are also being asked of deals between TSPs and internet companies like Facebook and Wikipedia, wherein their services can be provided to a customer either for free or at a special cost, building a walled garden and making only a part of the internet available to her.

Flipkart's recent deal with Airtel on the same came in for flak after it was seen as a violation of the net neutrality principle. 

For those who want to be better informed before taking a stand, there is plenty of reading material on another website, Currently, there are people volunteering online to translate the basics of the same into other Indian languages for wider reach. 

"The main problem in the consultation paper is the legalese. I am a programmer, and I don't understand this and the industry jargon used in the document. Even if I have to submit it to the TRAI, I don't have the vocabulary to do it. We got some lawyers to help with that," says Kiran Jonnalagadda, Bangalore-based techie and co-founder of, who is behind

The group that has propped up the massive campaign, informally calls itself the save the internet dot in coalition.

"There are about 50 people from across India working on this. As and when we required help in different areas 
 communication, policy, or videos  they offered to pitch in and join us," says Nikhil Pahwa, founder of Medianama, who is among those leading the charge in the campaign for net neutrality.

"When the IT Act was passed, there was no discussion, no public awareness, and we suffered for it. That can't be repeated. This is a clear and present danger. This will change the way we use the internet," says Pahwa. 

Much effort has been put into simplifying the complex telecom policy issues, licensing processes, and regulatory laws for the layperson. Humourous analogies apart (eg: would you pay differently for the same shampoo depending on whether you use it to wash your hair or beard?), there are also memes succinctly presenting what buying a regular data pack would be like in the future if net neutrality is violated.

(Memes courtesy: Imgur)

Stand up comedy group AIB came up with a video explaining the net neutrality issue a la John Oliver in the US. 

Oliver's video prompted a barrage of emails to the American regulator in favour of net neutrality just last year. 

While one can see tech geeks, lawyers and policy wonks take the lead the online conversations, others have gotten involved too. #SaveTheInternet has been trending on Twitter since Saturday. Even the likes of actor Shah Rukh Khan and Congress politician Ajay Maken have taken note and tweeted their support.

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