It’s been around 30 hours since AIB lent their voice to the net neutrality debate. The campaign website savetheinternet.in, which the video directs users to, has seen a mighty conversion rate — 1,45,000 visitors yesterday, and 3,26,000 visitors today.
Needless to say, the AIB video has given the campaign a phenomenal surge.
“We’re receiving so much email that Gmail can’t keep up. We just started using new accounts and our rate is 1000 emails every 10 minutes,” says Kiran Jonnalagadda, co-founder of hasgeek, who's coordinating the website development, on behalf of volunteers on the savetheinternet.in campaign. “There are at least 4-5 people working on the website, I’m just the guy tweeting out the stats,” he quipped.
Savetheinternet.in was an effort of over 50 people, and the web team had been waiting for the legal team’s inputs for a week. AIB put out the video within an hour of the site going live. “The video was ready two days before, the legal team wanted to do a thorough review of the answers they were submitting. We spent a week waiting for the to create their answers, we had to make sure the response was compliant as plain text. Then of course, AIB hit us with their traffic,” Jonnalagadda said.
Nikhil Pahwa, editor of Medianama.com has taken a sabbatical to work on this campaign. “My reaction to the (TRAI consultation) paper was: we’re screwed. I’m just really really worried that the Internet will never be the same again. If the TRAI consultation paper goes through and Airtel Zero is allowed to stay, it will just end up splicing the internet into multiple pieces,” he said.
"My reaction to the (TRAI consultation) paper was: we’re screwed."
“We might need internet startups to buy licenses licenses to operate in this country. It means that we might not be able to access global products when they launch. It means Indian startups may have to queue up outside TRAI, or DoT, the telecom operator to make their services available to the people. This is the most dangerous thing we’ve faced so far,” Pahwa said.
“I started Medianama, I paid 500 bucks for a domain name, 500 bucks per month for hosting. My biggest cost was setting up a private limited company. Now, every startup will have the additional cost of going and either buying a license, or it might have to pay a telecom operator to make sure their service isn’t degraded or it is available to all the users who come on to Airtel Zero,” he added.
Pahwa thinks that the TRAI paper could have implications for wired broadband as well.
“Today the distinction between wired and wireless is actually fairly limited. Is wi-fi wired or wireless? Therefore in that context if free wi-fi gets launched in this country, how is that treated? If telecom operators find out this is a way to make money, and it gives them control over the internet ecosystem, ISPs will scream why aren’t we allowed to do this. And that will be a perfectly legitimate question.“
"Now, every startup will have the additional cost of going and either buying a license."
His vision of what the zero rating may lead to is illuminating.
“In the next three years, the next 200 million people who come online in India, what sort of internet will they get access to, is the question. You’ll have an Airtel Zero, and a Vodafone Zero, and an Idea Zero, there will be a separate collection of gated services free for every telecom operator,” he said.
“Will they get the kind of crazy, wide, fun, immersive internet that you and I have today, where we can explore and do what we want, or will we get a collection of 100 services who pay a telecom operator? Airtel Zero is not the internet for free, it’s a collection of services for free,“ he added.
Correction: A previous version of this story reported hasgeek as driving the online campaign. They are just one of the many teams working on a volunteer effort.
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