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Net Effect

We've had a lot of talk lately about something called "Net Neutrality" in India. The basic idea of net neutrality is not that fishing nets don't have a gender - that's already been established, thank you. It's about our ability to visit whatever websites we may choose to without paying extra. You see, all these telecom chaps - the guys who give us our internet connections - hit on a brilliant idea. They could have all the large conglomerates pay them extra money and then allow their users to visit only those sites for cheap, charging extra if they want to use another website.

That may not sound too bad, but the implications are huge. Say, for instance, that you wanted to visit my blog (and if you don't, why not?), you would have to pay some company that's already making way too much money even more. Sites like Google.com, YouTube.com and so on would be available to us at sensible rates, but everything else would be insanely expensive. Call me picky, but I find that a tad outrageous. What if I want to (not that I would) use Bing?

 As a programmer, I use sites which distribute open-source software quite a bit, not just because it's free but also because it's very often as good as the paid stuff that companies like Adobe would love you to use. These sites rely on net neutrality to get visitors. If our wonderful telecom boys began charging us to visit these sites, we'd be forced to pay extortionate sums to big companies.

What I really wonder about is how this could ever become an issue. India is still a democratic country, right? I mean, I know China censors everything that they view as damaging to their citizens (which includes Google searches, for some reason), but we don't do that. The internet is the last truly free place on Earth. Couldn't we keep it that way for just a bit longer?

As of now, the TRAI (Telecom Regulating Associated Idiots - oops, I mean Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) is mulling over a bill that could very well legalize doing this. These are the guys, let us note, who blocked adf.ly as being somehow threatening to national security - though I fail to see how a URL shortening/monetizing service could possibly be an invitation to a national crisis. For all of you out there who would like to use the internet in peace, there's a petition you can sign over at change.org. Now stop reading and go sign it! After that, though, come back quickly and tell me what you think - before TRAI makes you pay for it!

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