India adopted a policy of net neutrality this month bring an end to years of campaigning in favor of an open and free internet in the country which is ranked second in terms of population. This adoption assumes greater significance in wake of the United States recently essentially killing the principle.
However, there are just a few nations in Asia that would want to follow the precedent set by India primarily because of the an over all lack of public awareness and the huge influence that some governments have on telecommunication providers.
Under the net neutrality rules, internet service providers (ISPs) are prohibited form slowing connections and/or allowing priority access to selected websites or applications.
Under the new net neutrality laws. India’s inter-ministerial telecom commission adopted recommendations which would allow its 1.3 billion people to get equal access to all contents online at the same speed and cost. The rules include the banning of “blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content”.
There are some exceptions to the rule such as the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), autonomous driving and remote diagnosing services, the would demand and require much faster internet connections than normal.
The move has been welcomed by supporters of net neutrality who now say that the country no possesses a firm stand to oppose any attempt to make internet connections slow or fast.
“We now have the strongest net neutrality regulations in the world,” says Nikhil Pakhwa, co-founder of Internet Freedom Foundation. This is the organization that has spearheaded the demand for net neutrality in India since 2015.
In sharp contrast to the measures adopted by India, in the US, the birthplace of the internet, the concept and principle of net neutrality had been brought to an end in June following the dismantling of related rules from the Obama government by the country’s Federal Communications Commission. It claimed that the rules had curbed investment in broadband infrastructure.
“It’s basic economics: the more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get,” Ajit Pai, the FCC’s chairman, said in a speech in April last year.
The that argument has been opposed by Pakhwa whoi claimed that India would continue to get investments from companies such as Amazon and Apple, and others.
“In terms of the number of internet users, India has the second-largest user base in the world; no company can [afford to] ignore the Indian market,” Pakhwa said. “What net neutrality enforces is that there is fairness in how you operate … it brings certainty and creates a level playing field for everyone.”
According to some analysts, the concept can be difficult to implement in some Asian countries following the repealing of the principle in the US. Some of the Asian countries already have a shortage of regulation top prevent throttling or paid prioritisation by ISPs or tech companies.
“The net neutrality movement in other Asian countries is not as big as the one in India. Internet infrastructure in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore are owned by the government or state-owned enterprises, and these countries rarely discuss net neutrality,” says Damar Juniarto, regional coordinator at Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet). “In Indonesia, net neutrality is seen as a matter of business competition, the discussion about it never touches the root of the problem, which is a fair public service to all.”
(Adapted from SCMP.com)