Strong PR makes ‘net neutrality’ a genuine consumer issue

The awareness generated over the net neutrality issue by a collection of Internet activists, corporate stars, politicians, celebrities’ media organization and comedy groups is unprecedented. As a result of strong consumer action,Flipkart, India's largest retailer has now pulled out of Airtel's Project /zero and come out in favour of net neutraility.

Here is how the campaign unfolded:

A complicated issue was simplified with a clear call for action

“Over the top services”,” net neutrality”, all terms that can confuse anyone and prevent real consumer level action. Activist groups such as ‘Net Neutrality’ took the trouble to simplify answers to 20 questions spread across 118 pages put out by the TRAI to seek consumer consultation. A pre-set sample of answers were provided- all you had to do was email TRAI.

Impact : This resulted in over 3 lakh emails to TRAI and the government has also set up a 6 member committee to examine the issue by mid May.

Effective news jacking by comedy group AIB leads to over a million views for the issue

Comedy collective ‘AIB’ then leapt in with this video explaining the entire issue using the simple example of a children’s park- the logic being you can’t be charged to access a faster swing in an essentially level playing field-pardon the pun!

Impact: The video was viewed so heavily that Facebook suspended it thinking its spam- though reports have cried foul saying that FB did so as it would be a beneficiary in a policy against net neutrality. Superstar, Shahrukh Khan, tweets about it.

Media houses pick it up and make it their own issue

Virtually every major media organization is now running a petition for net neutrality. NDTV, Times of India among others. CNN-IBN ran a prime time discussion on the issue with an interview with telecom minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Impact:  There is wide awareness about net neutrality and telecom operators have not been able to make a case that convinces customers of the need to pay for ‘Over the top services.’ 

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