Author – Dipayan Pal
It has been 26 years since the World Wide Web was launched. Tim Berners Lee, a British Scientist at CERN, was the man behind the World Wide Web. Â This technological breakthrough Â was developed for the purpose of sharing information between scientists all around the world. As years passed, people began to the use internet on a global scale. The internet was the major scientific breakthrough of the 20th century, and the present generation would find it very difficult to think of a life without it. As the web turns 26 in 2015, many countries around the globe are trying to put regulations on internet usage that would allow Internet Service Providers to discriminate online ,also allowing faster access to websites that can afford to pay.
The open internet is the internet we know and use. It is the same form of internet that was launched 26 years ago. The term open is used to describe it because it uses free, publicly available standards that anyone can access and build to, and it treats all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way. Sometimes, the concept of Open Internet is also referred to as Net Neutrality. Under this principle, Internet Service providers should treat all the data and information that travels over their network equally without blocking or slowing down of any website of users choice. Open internet establishes a network of online democracy, innovation and competition.
In today’s world, Internet is the most powerful medium for communication and innovation. It is not controlled by any private organization or any individual or any government. We can easily launch innovative applications, websites or blogs without any permission. The internet allows us to express, participate and make our voice heard all around the world. We can get information and news updates on any issue with a single click. We can keep in touch with our near and dear ones, write and share our opinion or our work online and talk real-time via various applications.
In short, the internet has completely changed our perceptions of the world. We depend on the internet for everything we do in modern times. Indeed, the very essence of the essential role that the internet plays in our lives is hinged on the facet of it being open and neutral. Without open internet, the service providers can interfere with access to the privacy protecting services or encrypted traffic and they could charge the common user any amount as per their whims and fancies. Privacy being a basic human right guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, the possibility of an individual or organization spying on an unaware internet user is unacceptable.
The violation of online privacy is not an alien phenomenon. Edward Snowden, an American computer professional leaked information of the NSA’s Mass Surveillance program named PRISM. It is due to his efforts that we came to know about the mass surveillance of NSA, and he was able to do so because of the open web. Another similar example is that of Aaron Swartz, American computer programmer, internet activist and founder of an online group named Demand Progress, known for its campaign against Internet censorship bills: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
Information is worth sharing. Organizations like WikiLeaks can leak secret information and news from anonymous sources because of open internet. No information can be termed private. Each and every piece of information must be accessible by the public because Internet is of the people, by the people and for the people.
In the Indian context, the Internet is a must for economic and social development. The country is home to a sizeable number of netizens. Our former finance minister, Mr. P Chidambaram’s online hangout to discuss the budget and the Planning Commission’s interactive chat on India’s 12th five-year Plan has proved how mature conversations over a distance can be made over internet. Our Honorable prime minister, Mr. Narendra Modi made use of social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook to inform the masses about latest news of the General Elections 2014 and to stay connected with his fellow countrymen. The advent of easily available internet has influenced the spheres of education and entrepreneurship in a big way. Indian internet entrepreneurs are making a mark on the Global internet Entrepreneurship map. Websites like Instamajo, RedBus , Flipkart, Just Dial, Make My Trip are trying to solve local problems first and then global. Indian Universities like Symbiosis and Sikkim Manipal University are offering certified online courses on various subjects over the internet (Distant Education). If there was no open and free internet, these would never have been possible.
On December 2012, Google launched a worldwide campaign to support an open and free internet named Take Action. Google has set up a website to make people aware of their rights and also the laws that will affect internet freedom. They asked people to pledge for this cause. Over 3,000,000 pledges have been received by Google. Websites like Wikipedia, Mozilla Firefox and organizations like Electronic Frontier Foundation and Demand Progress protested against internet censorship and worked for determining the future of our brightest beacon – the internet.
The future is online. The concept of open internet stands for our freedom and rights. If our country is a democratic country, it cannot afford network discrimination. We are able to express, communicate and innovate freely via internet without any permission or license, which would be an impossibility if the internet were not free. Moreover, some network groups would spy on us and this would ultimately lead to the violation of our fundamental rights. As responsible citizens, we cannot allow such a situation to prevail.
Let us join forces to create a web where the remaining 60 percent of the world’s population gets online and feels optimistic about the internet. Let us do so for making our world a better place, a more developed and technologically sound place, a place where justice does prevail and free access to knowledge is a basic human right.
Let us keep the web open and free. Let our voices be loud enough to be heard now. Otherwise, it would be too late, and the boon of net neutrality would be confined to the pages of history.
Dipayan Pal, a member of Kolkata Bloggers, is a student of Don Bosco School, Bandel. He is a writer, blogger and a history and tech enthusiast. He often writes for newspapers and magazines.