ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From a Public Internet to the Internet Mall

Commercial arrangements between telecom and internet companies are beginning to create "internet malls" that will give preferential access to a few internet companies. These structures will eventually undermine the public internet that we know and celebrate. Governments that are now ignorant of IT regulatory issues need to act soon on net neutrality so that the public internet remains in place.

Last month, the second largest telecom in the United States (US), V erizon, and the content king of the internet, Google, reached an agreement which could determine the future of the internet. In effect, they agreed that the wireless internet – i e, internet on mobiles, which is almost universally accepted to become the main mode of internet access in the near future, need not be the public and egalitarian internet we all know and celebrate.

Mobile internet would be more of an “Internet Mall”, where the mall owners – the telecom companies – will give selective access and priority to providers of goods and services who pay them handsomely. This is not science fiction. Just last month, in India, Airtel began providing Facebook free of data download charges. Meaning that even if you are not subscribed to the paid internet channel on Airtel, you still get the internet; it will be free, but only with Facebook on it. This month, Tata DoCoMo began providing a boutique of email and social networking sites for just Rs 50, but the rest of the internet needs to be separately subscribed for, and is more expensive.

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