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A 16 Year Old’s Letter To The TRAI Chairman On Net Neutrality

By Neeharika Thuravil:

To the Chairman, TRAI

Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share our views on the consultation paper published by TRAI on March 27, 2015, titled “Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) Services”. By us, I mean the part of India’s population that is fortunate enough to have an access to the internet – the internet where everything isn’t charged by money-hunting telecom operators.

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Photo Credit

Apart from expressing ourselves, I feel it is important to be able to allow others to freely express themselves as well. It’s the only way to form opinions and communicate, thereby diversifying and developing our country, correct?

Well, the telecom operators don’t seem to agree.

Sir, as you said on the Lunch with BS, you have two daughters. I can only imagine how privileged they are; how educated and forward with respect to their mindsets, thinking and world view. The internet, undoubtedly, was an aid in at least some part of this process of learning, directly or indirectly. And allow me to stress here, it was free internet. How would it have been if you had to pay for almost every website your daughters may or may not have visited? If I were in that position, I would hate to see my children missing out on all the wonderful, life-changing opportunities that a quality education offers.

Sir, in the last 8 years, I have learnt that the very reasons why India has so many problems are as follows:

1. A distinct lack of communication: A good part of our population lives in unreachable villages with barely any media access. The internet was spread across India in an attempt to bridge that gap. Disabling net neutrality would, in effect, break down every little bit of progress we have made towards truly uniting India and bringing every Indian closer to one another, closer to a better future.

2. The manifestation of, apparently, the ‘true’ spirit of capitalism: I have actually heard this phrase and was shocked beyond measure. When companies or businesses try to succeed individually, and make a good profit for themselves, most do it in a manner that does not harm anyone else, or anything else. Even when they wish to keep themselves afloat, they do so in constructive ways, of which the community is supportive. However, what these telecom operators are trying to do to is nothing short of theft. They are trying to steal our information, our education, our ability to develop. They’re trying to advance in terms of finances, leaving the rest of us in the dust.

A lack of net neutrality would be denying us our right to information as well. How will people in our villages access news about campaigns and video speeches, know who to vote for, know who would be the right person to represent them in the government? How would my maid’s rheumatic husband be able to book an Aadhar card appointment for their daughter without having to stand for hours on end in a line? Simple. We’d have to pay extra, yes?

I’d like answers to these questions, because these problems are very much real, and are definitely happening right now.

I am an 11th grade student, studying in the IB Diploma Program. My ultimate goal in life is to become an astronomer, fulfil the childish dream of mine, of going to the moon, impress my footprints there, and explore beyond. There are several others just like me, vying for the opportunity to represent of India. Our nation’s youth can’t wait to join the workforce. Sadly, doling out parts of the internet, most of which contain resources for us to follow through with our life goals, to greedy companies, pushes our dreams further away; the dream of getting a master’s degree in information technology, the dream of working for a big organization, or as a diplomat, or as a scientist.

Sir, I may just be a 16-year-old girl, but I do have perspective. The things that have allowed us to move forward and compete with the powers of the world are connection, information, and opinion, all facilitated by the internet. In fact, the internet started as one big utility that people could access for free, without companies trying to crowd in and grab a share (and then charging people for using it). I protest against seeing the internet turn into one big board game of Monopoly, where the telecom operators are the hotels and the houses, and when one lands on their spaces, there’s quite a sum to pay. Change has happened because of the internet. Progress has happened because of the internet. And if the verdict doesn’t change, an abrupt halt in the progression of India will also, inevitably, happen because of the internet.

I thank you so much for your time, and hope that you take this letter and the several others that my fellow Indians have sent to you, into consideration before making your decision.

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