No Easy Way – Net Neutrality and Ott Players

Mehul Kumar, Student, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad

Introduction

When Tim Wu coined the term “Net Neutrality” in 2003, he probably did not envisage that the concept one day would assume an importance of gargantuan proportions, and capture the world’s attention at large.[i] Since the FCC mooted the idea of reversing its stand on net neutrality on 23 April 2014,[ii] the discussions around the idea of net neutrality have exploded, with entities as diverse as the Harvard Law Journal and the All India Bakchod talking about it. One of the most important modalities to be decided in this quest for net neutrality, however, is the position of companies providing over-the-top content (OTT). This is of special significance to India, with news coming of major carriers like Airtel mooting over charging companies like WhatsApp and Facebook extra to allow their users access to them.[iii]

In order to find an educated, informed opinion on whether such regulation violates the terms of net neutrality as understood by the general vox populi, it is important to conduct a thorough analysis on how this OTT content is provided to its consumers, and what roles the telecom companies and carriers play in the distribution of the content. That is what the first section of the paper attempts to do. Subsequently, it analyses the various dimensions of a net neutrality paradigm, and opines on how these OTT players can be regulated without straying away from the core concepts of net neutrality.

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