The article below was written for my maiden column for Business Bhutan, published in yesterday's issue.


First, it was the freedom of speech – to opinionate freely in any public forum or media. Now, the issue seems to have elongated into the principle of net neutrality. The whole world is debating on this issue but here in Bhutan, as in almost all other cases, perhaps this too will arrive at the pace of a sloth. By the time BICMA takes rebirth and open its eyes, this issue would be served up to them on a plate. It is just a matter of time really.

The Internet has unleashed a chest of million possibilities that might have seemed laughable about a generation ago. And this boom is caused by the equal treatment of Internet traffic by Internet Service Providers(ISPs). My personal blog which is followed and read by a countable few, if fortune favours, has equal chances as the Facebook page or the Youtube channel, or for that matter, a fledging fancy of a teenager can create as much online presence as any established company. It’s a pretty romantic notion to imagine that the Internet will remain an open medium forever, as it is now – that all websites and applications will always remain equally available.

But what’s the guarantee that this will prevail?

Telcos are one of the fastest evolving industries in the world – first it was voice and short messages, now we are all headed towards big data. Content is king, as Bill Gates declared over two decades ago and it’s now taking over the future! Unlike the real world scenarios where people are constantly judging, the Internet might be the only place where everything- digital devices, platforms and applications, are treated equally. Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America, issued press releases in 2014 and 2015 in support of the net neutrality to be the very fabric of Internet that promotes growth and innovation without limitations.

A lot of ruckus is being raised in the neighbouring country of India too with the giant service providers such as Vodafone and Airtel making strong stands against the openness of the Internet. And why wouldn’t they anyway? It’s their money getting sucked into the black hole of investments in network infrastructure, and their constant struggle to accommodate the ever-booming traffic on data. If they are offered payments to manipulate, differentiate and prioritize traffic that flows over the Internet that would at the same time allow them to throttle and limit what flows through within the capacity of the networks, I would say, why not? After all, service providers are business entities and when over-the-top(OTT) contents such as WeChat and Facebook uses the infrastructure of the Service Providers to deliver their content, what reasons have the ISPs to stand and stare?

In the end, this is all about the fight for consumer right versus profit margin for telcos. Unless regulations are in place along with incentives for the investments that telcos make, be prepared stumble upon gatekeepers on the networks playing favourites.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other organization.
2 Responses

  1. I am all for the net neutrality. And I don't think anyone can stop it, even the giant Telcos. "Internet business is like bubbles" Bill Gates once said. No one can say who's gonna benefit directly from it yet the worlds major investments are flowing towards it. It's not even like any other businesses. This business has even consumed its own player that is the company who connected the fiber optic cables across the ocean went bankrupt in the end but still we the consumers are enjoying it. This is the future and the world is flat as Tom says. Flatter than ever. It's just a matter of time, now the gadgets are coming which can even browse net without having to connect via Telcos...I wait to see that soon

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