Centre for Internet & Society

The right to the internet is an absolute human right, Bengaluru-based lawyer Lawrence Liang said.

The article was published in the Times of India on February 1, 2015. Pranesh Prakash was quoted.

Pranesh Prakash, policy director, Centre for Internet and Society, said people should fight for this right "as we fight for the right to food".

There was vigorous espousal of the concept of net neutrality at the session on 'Is free internet a fantasy?' Net neutrality is the notion of keeping the internet free and open. It implies preventing broadband companies from blocking or deliberately slowing down legal content; and preventing them from collecting a higher fee from content providers to enable them to reach consumers faster.

Session moderator and writer Vivek Kaul noted that broadband companies had been arguing for the right to price internet services differentially on the grounds that they had made huge investments on their infrastructure. Prakash challenged that argument saying the companies were already highly profitable and their consumers were anyway paying for the internet. "Even the argument that large content providers like Google and Facebook are having a free ride on their networks is not true because they pay intermediaries who carry their traffic," he said.

Last November, US president Barack Obama upheld net neutrality, saying that for almost a century, "our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access into and out of your home or business." He went on to say: "It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call or a packet of data."

If broadband companies are allowed to charge content providers higher for faster internet services, it would discriminate against those who can't afford to pay such rates. This would mean lopsided availability of information - a fundamental resource for a democratic world.

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