Yesterday TRAI in a decision which is bound to bring smiles to millions of net neutrality activists like me – decided to show the door to Facebook’s baby “free basics”.
The Net Neutrality debate has been a debate that has gone for a long time. The decision comes as a shot in the arm for those supporting Net Neutrality.
Mr. Zuckerberg must be a disappointed man. His sinister plan to control the internet in the disguise of free internet is doomed (at least for now).
Net Neutrality Defined:
“Fee Internet by Free Basics”. The day I read about this plan from Facebook, I knew something was fishy.
Being in business for so many years has taught me something “So many free-s roaming hands in hand do not come for free. There is always a catch. Irrespective of how hard Facebook tried to sell the “We were trying to change the world” shit, I knew how much they wanted to get free users to give a push to their userbase in disguise of public service.
“Free basics” was anything but free for end users. As per Facebook, It was an internet plan which allowed users to use the internet free of cost. Now that’s what facebook wanted us to believe. In reality, it was nothing more than a corporate trick to give their advertisers a wider user base to reach.
The word “Free Internet” consisted of a few websites approved by the social media giant and to reach the free internet, you had to choose between one of them. i.e, if I use free basics, I only get to browse the websites offered by the seller of free basics- “Facebook”.
Those of you who always wondered, where does Facebook make so much money from?
You need to look at those ads on the right-hand side of your Facebook wall or sponsored ads in the middle of your Facebook wall. Facebook earns because of ads. It is all a number game for them. More the number of active users on FB, more is the money they can earn.
With free basics, Facebook wanted to take the internet to millions of poor Indians like you and me (the poor us 🙂 ) . On face value, it is indeed a Noble act (bless them!).
But why on earth will a company started to make profits do such a noble act for free. Is capitalism dead? Nah! It was just a disguised attempt by them to multiply their user base by millions for “free”.
Taking a cue from Facebook, our mobile service providers too decided to join the campaign to take the internet to millions for free.
Suddenly, the whole corporate world was smitten by “we will work for free” bug.
It’s just that mobile service providers trying to work for free sounds more unbelievable than Facebook trying to give us the internet for free.
They are the ones who squeeze every paisa from my mobile’s bill. I have forgotten the number of times i have had a fight with them for a wrong bill and given up thinking its only a few paisas.
Imagine, how these paisas would turn into millions if millions of us left the paisas.
Anyways, how does this ruling against free basics impact them?
Let’s analyze the plan of our telecom service providers to give us free internet.
Our corporate giants from telecom sector had their own version of free basics (yet to be named) to earn from websites.
They wanted to start a model where websites on our mobile phones opened based on the money paid by them to internet providers. In short, the first website to show when you type a keyword would be the one who paid more to the mobile service provider.
This strategy would have killed every single startup trying to sell on the internet.
The whole concept is against the very concept of Net Neutrality.
Those of you wondering what is Net Neutrality. Here is a definition of Net neutrality from wikipedia.
As per Wikipedia “Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”
My fellow startup owners, you all should be wary of these efforts from established businesses. These are ploys to kill your dream startups.
Let me explain you with an example – how killing Net Neutrality creates an unfair field for startups.
Imagine a scenario. You are an ecommerce service provider who sells flowers online in the world where our mobile service providers have adopted their own version of free basics.
They will now give preference to websites that pay them more on the internet.
Now, every time customer searches for your website, they see the torturous “loading-loading”. Whereas, your competitor (a company backed by VC) is killing it on internet by loading fastest among their bribe.
What do they do to get an advantage over you?
Well! They just bribed the internet provider to make it a battle of un-equals.
Since your website loads slow or does not load at all – All of your customers, who are so used to buying fast on the internet will quickly switch to faster web sites. No one likes to wait while performing transactions on the internet.
For no fault of yours, you lose a customer.
Had net neutrality failed, the battle of David versus Goliath would only be a story from story books.
In our startup world, Goliath would have paid the guy who owned the battlefield. They, in turn, would have given him extra power to slow down all blows from David.
Goliath would have beaten the shit out of David.
Despite all the enthusiasm & smartness, David would have eventually lost the battle. Tomorrow, no company among us would have had the balls to compete with Flipkart or any company which is heavily funded.
The free basics structure is created with the concept of creating a monopoly on the internet for any venture with deep pockets.
This is why Net Neutrality was/is important. The purpose of Net Neutrality was to always have a level playing field for all businesses on the internet.
We cannot allow the Internet to become anyone’s fiefdom. Something, Facebook tried to do in the disguise of free internet.
Had free basics or any damn “free internet” strategy by our mobile service providers succeeded, PM’s Startup India scheme would have run out of all the steam.
Today, startup culture in India blossoms because the internet is no one’s property. You can sell with a small advertisement budget.
With Net Neutrality winning the latest bout against free basics, all startups can sleep peacefully.
The decision definitely holds a special meaning for me and every entrepreneur who is working hard to make their small business or startup a success.