Why The Net Should Always Be Neutral

Net NeutralityThe Internet has become part and parcel of our lives that we can’t live a day without it, be it regular surfing, facebooking or whatsapping. It is built around the principle of open dissemination of information and ideas that can be shared and exchanged between you and me for free, and that no one dictates what is accessible or what should be accessed (unless the website is illegal). Being a self confessed news junkie and being a journalist myself I live, eat and breathe news. So for me and in-numerous others like me net neutrality is more important than anything else. The whole idea of net neutrality is to have a fair distribution of information in an unbiased manner ensuring that it is accessible to everyone in an equal manner.

Net neutrality has been a subject of debate across the world and the general consensus is that Internet should remain neutral. In the US earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission or FCC voted for a neutral Internet by 3-2 brining cheers to millions of net neutrality supporters. The regulation was a victory for the advocates of net neutrality as it ensures that broadband providers cannot block or speed up connections for a fee. It also prohibits Internet providers from striking deals with content firms for smoother and speedier delivery of traffic to consumers.   In India the debate was sparked by telecom company Airtel when it announced the launch of ‘Airtel Zero’ – an open marketing platform that will allow customers to access mobile applications at zero data charges, similar to the established concept of toll-free voice calling.   According the the company this plan is a win-win situation for customers and marketers. It will allow everyone from big marketers to small-time application developers to make parts or their entire mobile app free for customers – thus reviving interest of dormant customers, attracting new potential users and increasing retention. As far as customers are concerned as it will allow them to access their favourite mobile applications at no data charges, and also encourage them to try out new applications. Sounds quite interesting and promising too.

But the question is what happens if a company doesn’t want to join? So will service providers discriminate that particular company? The fear at the moment is that they can deliberately reduce the speed of those applications or websites that don’t pay. The natural progression is over a period of time customers will move on to an application that is faster to load and is easier to access.

The other concern is how much will be the charge? For example if it is being charged per person and if providers charge an exorbitant rate what will happen? Big companies and corporates will be able to pay as they possess the affordability of scale. But what happens to small businesses and startups? How will they pay? Even if they pay up, will that model sustain if they don’t get enough traffic as expected and keep on making losses? Naturally the companies will try to pass it on to customers, which boils down to the question will it be free for consumers?

Telcos argue that they have a fair and genuine reason for such moves. They have paid billions to acquire spectrum, be it 2G, 3G and broad band. They have also spent huge amount in setting up world class infrastructure. And now VoIP providers like Skype, Viber and recently WhatsApp (through its calling service) come and give free international calls and video chatting services. And the irony is that these VoIP providers use the existing infrastructure and services of these telcos, which in turn has been eating into the international voice call revenues of the telecom companies.

But on the flip-side didn’t these telcos make money when the sun was shining bright for almost two decades. The fee for spectrum was also minimal as it was first come first serve basis and there was no competitive bidding. Till the early 2000s voice call and SMS rates were high, and even charges were applicable on incoming calls. So there isn’t much to complain about as telecom is a technology business and technology is evolving all the time. These companies should just adopt the change and be more innovative rather than cry over spilled milk.

Telcos’ role is to provide service and it is better served if they stick to it. It is not their right to decide on what content or application should be accessed. That right solely and solely rests on the consumer. Data and content are two different things and cannot be controlled by the same entity. Telcos claim to control the content is is like a company that makes the pipeline for gas making claims to decide the quantity and quality of gas that will be supplied.

This doesn’t mean that the telecom companies should incur losses and suffer, but the idea of making net neutrality a thing of the past is not the solution. One solution is that for non payers these providers can continue giving access in the existing band width and speed. For companies who are willing to pay the speed can be doubled or tripled, making it a premium service which they can opt for or upgrade to. This means that most of the apps will be free for the consumers and hence will be openly accessible which in-turn will increase the traffic significantly. And as far as VoIP providers like Skype, Viber others are concerned they have to pay a premium or fee if they want to use the data through which consumers make calls.

Give Credit Where It Is Due

MourinhoIn order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. This Bill Cosby aptly describes Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. It necessarily doesn’t mean that he fears failure, but he has his reputation and credibility at stake whenever he takes up an assignment, especially when returning to a previous place or organisation. And after winning his third premier league title and Chelsea’s first in five years, Mourinho was quick to admit that the title is his reward for the risk he took in returning to Stamford Bridge for a second spell. “When you go back to where you had success before you risk a bit of your prestige and your history. I risked it but I can say we won again.”

On the outside the self proclaimed ‘Special One’ may look like an arrogant, outspoken manager and to an extend he is. And it stems from his confidence in himself and his abilities and the loyalty he enjoys among his players. But give credit where credit is due and if there is one person who can be singled out for Chelsea’s title win it is none other than Mourinho. This title was sheerly won by Mourinho’s tactical nous. Starting from his summer signings to his game by game tactical decisions, the outspoken Portuguese has impressed both neutrals and rivals equally.

Chelsea had a very good team last season, but clearly missed that creative engine and a quality striker which was clearly evident. When the tranfer window opened last summer Mourinho was quick to bridge that gap and signed Cesc Fabregas who leads the assists chart and Diego Costa who could have given stiff competition to Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane this season, if not for injuries. Those two have gelled smoothly into the team with Cesc showing why he is among the best and Costa taking to the Premiership like a duck to water. And with the return of Nemanja Matic to Chelsea in January the jigsaw was complete.

But this success is not just due to his summer signings. Mourinho’s team has been rock solid at the back, giving away a miserly 27 goals in 35 games. As Steve Jobs once said ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future’, in this case titles and glory. That’s exactly what Mourinho has been doing. While Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta is giving width and pace at the back, a rejuvenated John Terry and a committed Gary Cahill has been bedrock at the back. And behind that back four in Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea has got one of the best goalkeepers in the world who along with David de Gea who can dominate the game for at-least a decade. And not to mention the ever blossoming Eden Hazard who is maturing and giving the kind of performances that could see him challenge Ronaldo and Messi for the Ballon d’Or.

Chelsea at times did play the so called ‘boring football’ or parking the bus, but who cares as it boils down to getting three points. Possession based attacking play is good to watch, but there is no use if you can’t win matches. Titles are won by goals and points and not by possession and I don’t think Chelsea fans would have a problem if they keep on winning the title in this fashion.

But having said that Chelsea’s job is only half done. As much as Chelsea fans would revel their title triumph there is no denying the fact that this has been achieved to a certain extend due to the bad performance of its rivals. There was no clear fight from Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City. United failed to make a title charge as they were recovering from last season’s catastrophe and is rebuilding under Louis Van Gaal. Last season’s winners City was there in the title race till early this year but then lost the plot completely primarily due to an aging squad and a midfield that looks totally disinterested. And Arsenal for a change has kept winning in the fag end of the season, but it was a little too late and had it been a slight early they could have given solid competition to Chelsea. Liverpool like United spent a lot after the exit of Suarez but that hasn’t translated into wins, while Tottenham and Southampton were never in the race for the top spot.

Next season will be more tougher and Chelsea won’t get a clear run at the title like this year. Arsenal, United, City and Liverpool will all improve their squads while Spurs and Southampton will keep on pushing for a spot in the Champions League. So what needs to be seen if Chelsea can defend the title. Also Chelsea’ s season in Europe was a failure and Mourinho has a lot of work to do to make his team play at the level of Barcelona, Madrid (both Real and Atletico) and Bayern Munich. He certainly has one eye on that trophy which has eluded him as a Chelsea manager previously (although both Jose and Chelsea have won it separately).

Mourinho is at his best when he is challenged and he thrives on them. And even the man himself would have liked a more competitive season as that brings out the best of him. To be fair Chelsea’s future is in safe hands and they will keep on competing and winning trophies as long as Mourinho rules the roost at Stamford Bridge.

Once again congratulations to Jose Mourinho and Chelsea for a job well done. They well and truly deserved to be champions of England.