With just about a day left before the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) closes comments on its “Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) Services”, the public campaign seeking to preserve the Internet and its underlying principle of net-neutrality has already proved to be one of the most extensive and participatory that India has witnessed in recent times. The #SaveTheInternet campaign alone has registered around a million responses to the Consultation Paper, and the numbers keep growing as the responses keep flowing in.
Reflective of the truly diverse nature of the Internet’s stake-holder community, responses to the Consultation Paper have been sent in by everyone from casual users of the Internet to start up businesses and many more. The nation-wide campaign in favor of net-neutrality also prompted corporations such as Flipkart and Cleartrip to dissociate from non-neutral zero-rated service platforms. This unprecedented level of public engagement is evidence not only of the effectiveness of democratic process, but also of the power of the very Internet that is at risk of being fundamentally altered.
It is redeeming to know that despite what some revenue-driven parties in the net-neutrality debate or their confusing campaigns in favor of fragmenting the Internet might say, the people of India have recognized the significance of preserving core ideologies that made the Internet what it is. Now one can only hope that TRAI heeds the overwhelming calls for an open Internet from actual, every-day users of the Internet, and envisions a regulatory response that helps preserve the Internet in all its openness.