Free Internet’s pseudo counterpart

Fri, 2016-01-15 18:39 -- SCC India Staff

2015 saw a great deal of discussions over the concept of net neutrality. By definition, it means:the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites. In other words it is “Net Equality” - the Internet's guiding principle which preserves our right to communicate freely online. This is the definition of an open internet. Net Neutrality also means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. Like our survival needs including clean air, drinking water, food, clothing and shelter, the right to free and open internet, is every individuals unrebutted due in today’s information age.And no one can title themselves to be the ultimate authority as a sole-provider of any such basics. It is for all, by all and of all…in the true democratic sense. If Globalisation was a new term for Colonisation, privatisation can very well be perceived as the new term for monarchy, dominance and absolute power! EvgenyMorozov, one of the most insightful commentators on technology, has written extensively on how Silicon Valley seeks to subvert the state, promising to give the people connectivity, transport and other facilities if people only hand over their data to them. Instead of people demanding that the state provide access to various services — from drinking water to transport and communications — people are being led to believe that a few capitalists from the Silicon Valley will provide all these services. We will have internet connectivity instead of education and Uber will provide private taxis instead of public transport.This is the Internet monopolies’ agenda of hidden and mass-scale privatisation of public services, according to him.

Among the very many revelations that this discussion of ‘Net Neutrality’ has led to, the ‘Free Basics’ argument is over an audience that has never used the internet at all.It is about making the internet available for free to the poor of India and help them enrich their lives, or so it claims. Free Basics is not free, basic Internet as its name implies. It has a version of Facebook, and only a few other websites and services that are willing to partner with Facebook’s proprietary platform. So it is not the whole internet, it is the piece-meal version of it. The version that the owner wants us to know about, the version that is very opposite of the idea of “Free Net”. And very aptly so, start with rural India, start with those who have no idea of what the internet is all about. Give them an apple and call it the mango. And this discussion which has gathered pace in 2016 is to make everyone aware of this phenomenon. The purpose is to set the alarm bells ringing not just for the 125 million Facebook subscribers of India, but to alert people at large to make smarter choices. The reason that the Internet has become such a powerful driver of change in such a short time is precisely because anybody, anywhere, can connect to anybody else across the globe and not justreceive, but also create and share content. It is our responsibility to protect our freedom to information and not fall prey to any pseudo internet as oppose to the free net. 

The internet is a source of knowledge, of communication, a glimpse into the world right from your desk. It provides information at your fingertips, processed with most insight and runtime accuracy. History has proven that the command rests with the one in power and today, information is power. The onus is on the masses to choose wisely to ensure that this power stays where it belongs – with the people.

 *Privatisation is a process, which can be defined as the "transfer of assets, management, functions or responsibilities [relating to education] previously owned or carried out by the State to private actors" 

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