Monday, April 13, 2015

I Support Net Neutrality. But not this...

Note: Names changed to protect identities :P

The internet must be free to access, at high b/w speeds as it supports the freedom of information which has caused the recent enlightenment in humanity - where knowledge cannot be controlled by the elite and people can make a choice of their own. Hence the hue and cry over net neutrality in the recent times.

There is, however,  one online behaviour which many of us have recently acquired, which is not in congruence with some of the points which we are trying to support, while supporting net neutrality. I want to know whether you think this behaviour is good to go.

In my opinion it isn't. I will elaborate on why i feel so.

Take the example of Wassup. Started as a free service and is still free. Used a simple business strategy - Make people dependent on your services, and then you are the sole player in the market. Beyond this, provide customised services in the name of enhanced privacy and other things, to make money.

Today using the internet, someone is helping us order food and get discounts. Someone is selling vegetables, someone mobile phones, a many others are selling clothes. The internet has become a huge kirana bazaar and thanks to the huge volumes involved, people are being offered amazing discounts. Buying has become a daily habit.

We are also acquiring a habit of buying the the brand new way and shedding the old, inefficient ways of shopping. The side effect here is the players who are helping us do this are also controlling which provider of goods/services flourishes in this growing craze for faster delivery of goods/services to our homes.

Once we all start doing everything online, these portals will become the gatekeepers as to who can operate and who cannot. Give me a fee and go to work, this is the New Age Digital Dadagiri!

Evil Commerce? (source:
Foozpanja, for example, charges commissions to hotels on successful transactions, for using it as a booking gateway. It offers discounts to consumers, to get them hooked to its services and become habituated to the brand new way of ordering food.

Now you may say that the market will have a number of players who will come an even out the competition, so Foozpanja will not have all the cake to itself. But think about the hotel vendors/service providers - they will have to eventually shell out money on each popular portal to survive, and this is not good. However miniscule it may be, it is as good as hafta vasooli done in Mumbai by the bhai ka chamcha, so that the roadside vendors can carry on with their business. Each online portal will become the bhai ka chamcha and the hotel folks/service providers will have to shell out their hafta.

Now couple this up with what our telecom companies (Telcos) are doing to quash net neutrality and you have this "absolutely mindblasting, economically profitable arrangement" -
  1. Hotels pay Foozpanja to reach customers
  2. Foozpanja pays Telcos to survive in a restricted internet scenario
  3. We pay Telcos for the network service, and Telcos makes us feel we are using the internet for "free"
The actual producers and the actual consumers become slaves of the system - and the middle folks make money. Sounds familiar, doesn't it...;)

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