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Net Neutrality issue in Nepal : Ncell Axiata Internet for All Campaign

The net neutrality issue has highly been debated in global internet governance process and various technological aspect of conferences and meetings. But when it comes to enactment and operation there has always been a gap. Internet has always been debatable in every aspect of its equality, and governance process. Though, the fundamental core values of internet ensure the basic right of

-The end to end principle
-Open Standards
-Universal Access
-Freedom of Expression (FoE)   

These core values of internet highlights the basic concept of net neutrality and equality among every end user.

However, with the changing technology, growth and development net neutrality seems to be having less scope of how it can be processed and understood. The overall concept of how internet can be made free of discrimination globally in terms of  access and laws is a question of huge research and debate.

Getting down to the main topic Net Neutrality, there are various school of thoughts
1. Providing free Internet access without any benefit for social welfare
2. Providing free Internet access with benefits of promotion

Providing Free Internet access without any benefit for social welfare: This is one of the fundamental  objective which promotes free access to the unreachable with no liability. So its free in terms of no promotion or barriers. This type of approach has been a major  challenge of how and who is willing to spend billion in the name of CSR. As we all know internet is inter-network  connected with networks which requires power, resource and technical support. Everything that requires money to run it, so no matter where you might be enjoying a free access, there will be someone who will be billed for your use and there will be someone monitoring the use and managing the networks. If there is any liability or condition it needs to be fulfilled in terms of who and where,  which needs a full clarity and openness in such ideology.  

Providing Free internet access with benefits of promotion: This is one of the more common and used process where big internet organization give free over the top services or zero rating facilities over few of the applications for their customer specifically for  promotional objective. They have  Target and strategy in terms of reach, access and conditions are applied.

Both of the concept have more focused meaning and interpretation. Both of the ideologies promote free access but the promotional ideology  hugely discriminates and creates a barriers of limitation and options which offend the basic core values directly where as the first ideology to some extent also promotes the overall campaign but it is more of a CSR rather than a marketing concept of promotion. Similarly, there are no restriction on the first ideology and the second one has a limitation and issues of condition which are effective from the day the campaign starts till the time the organization stops it.  
In India free basic which provided free internet access to people through its platform was was denied but the GIO 4G campaign  which has no restriction for use of application has been running.
The basic difference is the ideologies as the free basic directed its user to go through a certain platform and to access few websites where as GIO is a free bandwidth campaign where the whole SIM is given for free and the user can access to everything no restriction in terms of their choices and preferences.

Now coming back to the topic of Nepal and net neutrality so what and where are we?

Ncell the Axiata Group of Telecom has recently launched a new campaign "INTERFORALL" to its users providing free access to #facebook with conditions applied. The whole campaign has been hugely debated among technical community with issues of Net Neutrality. Activist, blogger and technical experts have questioned the relevance of the over all campaign and its impact upon Nepal's internet ecosystem.

 As Nepal internet penetration rate is very low and there is a limited knowledge of internet core values and right, giving free internet can be an easy way of promotion but the long terms effect can be hugely argued and contemplated.

The points where we need to understand are
1. Nepali internet users have no awareness
2. Are we showing the youths internet means Facebook ?
3. Regulating content online or even limiting the prospect of internet is a discrimination
4. Who is bearing the cost ?
5. What is the regulating body thinking ?
6. Has there been any agreement in terms of such promotional activities?

In such situations the services like these can be a lure for the time but in long run it can be a devastating  situation for the over all growth and development of user behavior and internet ecosystem. We need to focus more on the awareness where we have to spread the awareness among internet users that nothing is free on internet, if anything is free on internet than the product is you.  

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Mahesh Uppal
June 27, 2017 at 1:57 AM delete

Interesting note, Shreedeep. You have raised several important questions. How is the NTA treating this? Let me know if it is convenient to speak/skype? Best


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