#NetNeutrality

Note : Kindly excuse the typos! Written in a flow with no interest for editing. Kindly do read through the links and do comment here. Post is long as the context, the uproar might be lost when someone reads it later in time. Kindly read if you have 15-30 mins in hand. And yeah if you follow up the links and are not lazy, it is even longer.

Context (What?):

The groundswell on the internet about Net Neutrality in India primarily started with Facebook’s initiative to have certain sites free as part of internet.org (About , Wikipedia – detailed document of the issue). If you are in India and you go the website you see a response in Hindi (India’s national language) – which doesn’t work if you are not on a Reliance network. (I have a translated version here)

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 3.27.53 AMWhich seems very odd and unfair. Feels like it is a walled garden where the site is available only for certain India Internet users using the Reliance Network. Also do check out Wikipedia link on ‘Facebook Zero’ which aims at getting more users where people who are so called ‘poor’ or in other words not used internet before due to cost being an issue can use the internet for free. It offers a stripped down version of Facebook apart from essential sites that Facebook thought would be useful. Where even ‘photos’ on Facebook would be charged at a different or regular rate that the user falls or subscribes to.

I feel Airtel responded to this with an Airtel Zero Plan in order to compete with Reliance. The plan (unlike Facebook’s initiative) completely flipped the funnel and was a great idea which said if the business wants to pay us (Airtel) for the bandwidth – then it is free for the users of your business/site! Airtel had initially actually done – Wikipedia Zero project to access Wikipedia for free over SMS / USSD. The Airtel Zero plan was marketed as as follows :

  • Airtel launches ‘Airtel Zero’: A win-win platform for customers and marketers
  • Customers benefit: Customers enjoy free data access to a variety of mobile apps signed up with ‘Airtel Zero’Compelling marketing tool for marketers: App providers pay for customers’ data charges, thus giving customers toll-free access to their mobile application
  • For startups to enterprises: An open marketing platform that empowers companies ranging from small businesses to large conglomerates with an equal opportunity to reach out to customers in India
  • Spurs national agendas: Contributes to Government’s focus on Digital Inclusion and ‘Make in India’

Kindly note – the pitch is a very positive one saying it helps everyone! And helps the nation and giving access to specific sites for users on Airtel with the hope that people will switch due to this initiative and the perception that there is good intention at the end of it for Airtel to retain / get more users.

When Facebook Zero or internet.org or Wiki Zero were launched everyone was quite. However, Airtel Zero opened up the whole issue for debate.

This started a movement of protests from large number of online Indians protesting against such initiative. Some links that are for net neutrality that make sense and don’t make sense {I leave it to your judgement :- )} and my opinions in the sub bullet :

Enough of articles that created or support the movement.

Kindly note, I see the net neutrality debate in the US (Obama video, FCC 2015 proposal, Nytimes articles – 1,2 and 3) is different and is even more severe as to what is prevailing in India. Basically it comes down to the following according to my understanding (I totally agree to this if telcos are doing this) :

  • Blocking of sites is not right
  • Charging extra for certain sites either from the business or users is not okay
  • Giving variable bandwidth between services or sites should not be allowed
  • Even if there are competing services being provided by certain sites or services on the internet that the telco or service provider is engaged in, there should not be extra cost i.e a byte is a byte. This means Skype should not be differentiated if a telco is offering voice services.
  • Lack of transparency for the customers and under the table deals between certain companies

However, giving the users different plans according to internet speed is not part of the debate nor is giving only certain sites for free apart from the basic internet package. People also site Obama’s video and the new laws enacted by the FCC. Where the claim is internet has to be viewed as an essential good, like electricity or water. This is not the moot point in India’s current net neutrality debate.

My View about the debate in India currently

I am against the current net neutrality debate in India. People are jumping the gun saying giving certain sites for free if the business decide to pay bandwidth is not right. The basic claim is if we allow this or don’t protest now, we are allowing or giving leeway for possible doomsday scenario for the telcos sometime in future where they can discriminate between certain websites or businesses. Also, this will lead to new startups or internet / mobile companies not being able to compete in a unequal world and hence stopping the innovation culture. In simple words, the rich get richer! I see it as an incentive for business to use their websites and visit their website with no cost. They are not saying start-ups cannot get onto the platform.

Metaphorically from the real world cases : it is like Amazon or Flipkart saying “Free Delivery / Shipping”. Some sites can afford it and others cannot. We can then say transportation is a basic need and hence there should not be variable pricing between petrol / diesel. All cars or taxis should be charge at the same rate of bus tickets or train tickets in general or AC. Some people will say these metaphors don’t make sense but that is how I see it. There is a convenience charge and there is a business advantage. Let’s face it! However, in case of essentials goods, the rates are fixed by the government in India. The oil companies for instance. Most of them are public sector companies and the government keeps them alive. Best case being Indian government rescuing Air India. Which has been making losses for ages but my tax money is been sunk there without my approval with no hope to helping the sector!

Current scenario in India is not of discrimination. It is about certain companies paying money to the telcos so that users can get their content for free as they have figured our their business model to make money in other ways i.e. Ads or profitability due to scale. It is not about charging more for certain sites. Start-ups cannot afford that as they have not figured out how to make money. They will achieve scale in some time to make money. Plans like Airtel Zero provide an app store like advantage where they can be featured and there will be better visibility. However, search engines and word of word still exist to give them visibility  Net equality still remains, you can still access the ‘other’ sites at the same cost depending on your plan and the choice to speed (in this case 2G / 3G /4G or whatever Gs!)

My thoughts/understanding overall :

  • It is okay for telcos to offer certain sites for free if it is due to debatable ‘goodwill’ or businesses bearing the cost of the bandwidth business or government (say IRCTC and others) instead of users. Ultimately someone has to bear the cost?
  • Of course, users cannot demand that if a site is free on a certain telecom network due their policies then their network should also follow suit. They are welcome to choose/change their network and with mobile number portability in India there should not be any issue on phone numbers.
  • Some of the article that raised the question and primarily were thought leaders in the groundswell (1 million+ mails were sent to Government ultimately protesting against this!) They have viewed this with a very narrow lens. 1 million people mailing is primarily due to herd mentality. 1 million people who are intellectual and are economically well have sent the email and I don’t think they have bothered to send the mail after understanding the real debate. Couple of posts by influential people and they should be right – let us also join the wagon.
  • Current issue is of not blocking. (Kindly correct me if this is wrong)
  • Not charging extra for certain sites or throttling of bandwidth (I am not sure if this is being done). After all, telcos make more money if people are using more bandwidth. Telcos are making money as lot of people are using Youtube on 3G, helping them to charge more or provide packages with higher cost based on data download.
  • The main issues came up due to WhatsApp not Airtel Zero or Facebook Zero or internet.org! The new feature of free calling opens can of worms. They already killed the SMS or MMS business. Telcos and operators felt threat. Primarily due to superior technology (managing huge users efficiently).
  • Prime reason MMS didn’t take off between the telcos in the world as operators across the world did not come to agree that they will work out the pricing across the world. In fact they priced it too high. Even SMS – the actual cost of sending an SMS is almost close to zero in the telco network. Basically they were greedy and not innovative to understand lowering the cost will only help them. While I was working at Netcore around 2008, we got blocked from sending free SMS as the operators saw their monetization going down leading to lower ARPU. Media reports (Airtel, Vodafone and Rajesh‘s posts) – which violates the net neutrality point. There was no movement then as users felt it was not internet.
  • The governments are also to be blamed as the spectrum was sold at exorbitant charge and they promised the telcos they will have regulation to protect the telcos by giving them pricing and other advantages in terms of VOIP not being legal and having interconnect charges for SMS and Voice calls. Albeit throttling innovation in the telecom business.
  • They way I see it – government is the only party to be blamed. They got greedy under the pretext that it will help them in getting tax money which can be used to help the poor with subsidies or the political leaders making money!
  • They way I see telcos giving free internet for certain sites are in fact being innovative. Let the market dynamics decide who will win – are people going to move to other service providers due to rate differential or better quality of service or presence of service when one travels in India or abroad or unfair advantage that some sites are free on their network !?

Articles I would like to point out against the argument (just googled and I am happy to see them – media journalist who have put their views clearly and have not succumbed as most of media has done) :

However, I am disappointed on the comments by people to these posts that are leading the movement. They just doing +1 or simply saying telcos are assholes

What the government needs or could do to help everyone (I am yet to read the TRAI consultation paper – possibly next post I will give my opinion on that. Missed the deadline on 24th but who cares! At least I don’t) :

In fact, what people should be really concerned is what is in the news recently as of yesterday : Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone & Idea want WhatsApp, Viber, Skype under regulation. Basically they are asking and implying to their users –  you can’t have your cake and eat it too! It TRAI agrees – the entire movement goes bonkers. Well have to see if MODI delivers – abki baar aap ki sarkar … :-)

Update :

  • I tried to fix the typos and have added some words or sentences in the post. However have not changed my stance.
  • Telecom operators warn of six-fold hike in data tariffs – the article makes sense. Telcos are building their cases on why the services like Skypes i.e. VOIP can be allowed on their network. However, I wonder how they came up with 6x number. Can some one say why 6x and not 10x or 100x?

silence economy

I have been thinking and feeling a lot about silence. You can find posts on this topic in my blog : silence : Infact I lived the last 2 years of my life trying to appreciate in better :-)

This quote by Lao Tzu is so profound! Silence is a source of great strength

Buddha

Meditating on silence

I mention about it in the following posts : Being Creative ; Creative Silence ; LoCuSt Theory . 2 years back i was so much into internet and mobile, I suddenly felt if I was too dependent on it. What if, I asked myself, I don’t have the connection? Will I be okay and happy? Am I too social? Can I be happy with myself and people around me? Or am I addicted to the internet to the extent that its a relationship I am dependent on? Hence over the last 700+ days I completely withdrew myself and now I am back to full form myself. Happy to say, I can go to an island and still remain happy with out electricity :-) The internet and mobile with facebook, twitter and google definitely keep me happy and entertained. But I shall be happy and thriving without it as well …

Coming back to the topic of the post, I see the whole world economy as a result of the human kind not be at ease with the silence. As I said in my earlier post, Locust Theory : The whole universe is built around Nothingness or impermanence. Actually a massive silence. The absolute truth is nothingness or silence!

The whole modern materialistic, capitalistic world seems to be making money from the inability of people to be at peace with the silence. The economy of the growth i.e. GDP is a measure of how much the country is working towards filing this silence! The only problem I see with this is its fundamentally unstable. Growth where the foundation of the economy is silence is more sustainable and democratic. Growth that is more thought out – a step though slower definitely towards a stronger, better and richer tomorrow. I think India’ growth trajectory is in the right direction with focus on sustainable development, long term development as the future i.e. as per needs and abilities. Of course, there is a balance of power, a big gap in the socio-economic structure. But the inclusive development will happen in sometime … if not now definitely by 2050! the internet and mobile will play a very critical role in this.

HAR PAL … KUCH ZAROORI ( www.mytoday.com Every Moment … something u need ) a new product we are re-launching and re-branding where I work. I guess this will add more fuel to the economy in general : ;-) and we take a cut! Hopefully in the more sustainable way.  Only time will tell but I am sure we are onto something really big here. Possibly the next google or facebook? I am sure this will be addictive. Atleast thats my job role to make it addictive – hope I live up to the expectations!

Coming to the more details of the silence economy, this is how the economy functions. In order to get away from the silence, a person, institution or group of people can do one of the following things:

  • create
  • consume
  • comment
  • curate
  • collaborate (co-create)
  • destroy
  • share

Depending where you are in the value making or consumption chain your either make or spend money! Thats the gyan session for today :-) too much philosophy. Next blog post on ‘life’ would be either on anger or how / why the future of money will be barter in the open, social and free world :-)

time to talk numbers!

I have been in the number mood this week. I guess primarily because of the operations jaunt I am having at office. As they say devil is in the details – I think once you break the barrier numbers are cool to swim at. So, today I decided to de-stress from excessive work by looking at my flickr numbers ;-)

Another reason I thought it would be good to blog and reflect at the numbers today is because Feb 27th i.e. today happens to be the last day for the gifted pro account by the Flickr Staffer on Nov 26th 2008 when he saw me telling not much bandwidth to upload snaps on the stream! Also, the before I hit another milestone – I have now uploaded my 12,000th snap on flickr. Its a self potrait taken when I was in a reflective mood at Panchgani couple of weekends back de-stressing!

IMG_9291

As it stands currently I have uploaded 12,151 photos and my profile i.e http://flickr.com/people/vinu/ has been viewed 1,184,075 times! Total view count of all snaps stands at an amazing 3.3 million+!!

flickr_stats

If you examine the breakup the facts are even more amazing – only some 1500 are public.  Rest are private. I pressed the privacy button a year back when my camera became defunct a year back as I was very upset. Then changed certain snaps into public. The fact comes out when you see than 11,000+ snaps have been viewed atleast once ;-) Out of everything – one fact I really value a lot – close to 2,000 snaps have been commented at!
breakdown

In terms of the top 10 of views – the 26/11 snaps are up there. Infact the first 70+ snaps are from this only! I am sure close the 2.5 million views are from the Mumbai terror attacks incident!
flickr_top10

In terms of referrers – 82% of all traffic is from flickr itself! the 80-20 rule playing itself! news.yahoo.com – from the mumbai terror attacks incident seems to have contributed 12%!!
flickr_refer_top10

Anyway, wrapping it up – it would been nice (more statisfying) to have genuinely got sooo much views i.e. attention for have good quality visual snaps rather than because of news material. Somehow I feel more satisfied and thence happy from genuine appreciation, snaps that convey beauty & feeling. Pictures that are ‘Fluid Frames‘ rather than just news material. But hey, who would not want a supernova moment ;-) I was there and I did that! and the Indian Express has called me the real cool dude (newspaper cutting)! he he and I ain’t complaining ;-)

IMG_9336

have so much to blog ..

but just not in the flow. Even feeling lazy to twitter :-) I guess I should be into blogging soon the ‘go point’ is lurking in the horizon :D

Harshad Leaves Facebook

I got this from Harshad today on Facebook. Interesting :-)

Hey friends!

I’m just quickly emailing you from my facebook account before I delete it. I’m still available on orkut, just that I can’t stand facebook anymore.

I’m leaving facebook because
– I don’t use it much
– I don’t like the complicated user interface
– I don’t like giving applications access to my personal information just to view one message from a friend.
– My friends have emails, and its easier for me to contact them that way.
– Facebook doesn’t allow me to simply delete my account – I SUSPECT FOUL INTENTIONS. FACEBOOK IS NOT TRANSPARENT.
– Copyright grab issue… as a person creating content, I cannot stand this.
– Gut feeling – I never wanted to join, but friends forced me to… and now I’m realizing I was right… need to quit ASAP.

Hope you understand, kindly email me whenever you feel like talking.

Cheers!
Harshad.

Old Love

Old Love ...

I heard the song titled ‘Old Love’ by Eric Clapton – a simple and deep song. Clearly explains my state of mind now :-) Check out the video – live version, amazing solo guitar by Clapton in the middle of the song.

And the first photo that came to my mind was this photo I had taken at New York, June end 2005. I had finished my Masters at berk and was wondering what to do next. I didn’t know why I liked the shot but that was my frame of mind best described then and guess what I understand now :-)!!

The lyrics of the song – Old Love:

I can feel your body
When I’m lying in bed
There’s too much confusion
Going around through my head

And it makes me so angry
To know that the flame still burns
Why can’t I get over?
When will I ever learn?

Old love, leave me alone
Old love, go on home

I can see your face
But I know that it’s not real
It’s just an illusion
Caused by how I used to feel

And it makes me so angry
To know that the flame will always burn
I’ll never get over
I know now that I’ll never learn

Chorus

Finding Kiran

My friend Anil just mailed this in, please do mail / circulate this … I personally know Rabin and Arindham – lovely folks. Sorry to hear about this. Its saddening to see that people are assuming Kiran is dead without a proper search operation.

http://findkiran.blogspot.com/ … The rescue efforts seem
to be less than adequate. It’s amazing that this has escaped all news
channels. I have known Kiran personally during my stay at IIT Kharagpur and
feel sorry about the lack of proper response from park officials.This message is going out in the hope that it will help in someway in the search and rescue of a KGPite who has gone missing in Yosemite National Park (in Northern California).

Please contact: if you think you can help in anyway.

Arindam Chakrabarti: 510-717-7447, mailto: arindamchaks@gmail.com
Rabin Patra: 510-717-2999, rkpatra@cs.berkeley.edu

Here is what is known till today:

YSSKS Kiran has been missing in Yosemite since 12:00 noon on
Saturday May 19, 2007. His friends saw him get washed away in the water but lost sight of him moments after. Kiran could have gotten caught on the shore
immediately after.

As of 1:00pm on Monday May 21, 2007, Search and rescue officers say they are assuming he is already dead, and that his body is trapped in rocks under the water. We believe that this is just an assumption and not a confirmed truth. He may be lying injured and unconscious close to the river. We must make sure that all actions are being pursued to find him quickly.

Here is what is known till today: Kiran has been missing in Yosemite since 12:00 noon on Saturday May 19, 2007. His friends saw him get washed away in the water but lost sight of him moments after. Kiran could have gotten caught on the shore immediately after. As of 1:00pm on Monday May 21, 2007, Search and rescue officers say they are assuming he is already dead, and that his body is trapped in rocks under the water. We believe that this is just an assumption and not a confirmed truth. He may be lying injured and unconscious close to the river. We must make sure that all actions are being pursued to find him quickly.

Kiran’s parents are in India and have been notified of this accident. His father is making arrangements to come to the US immediately. Kiran got his B.Tech. (Hons.) in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Kharagpur in India in 2001. He got his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota in 2006, and is working in NVidia in the San Francisco Bay Area. We want to find Kiran quickly and hopefully alive. We need your help with the following items as soon as possible:- Assistance in getting the media to highlight this horrible accident in Yosemite, and influence continued and full-fledged search and rescue efforts by the appropriate agencies. Reaching out to Congressmen and Senators to influence continued and full-fledged search and rescue efforts. (We are currently reaching out to the IIT, University of Minnesota, NVidia, San Francisco Bay Area, and other social networks.)