Who we are
- We are not a company or any kind of formal entity. We are a group of volunteers. There are over 50 of us.
- We are apolitical and, as a collective, unaffiliated with any political party or organisation. Our belief in net neutrality is above whatever political affiliations individual members have.
- We are not aligned with any company, industry association or non-government organisation.
- We come from various backgrounds, from various parts of India, each with different skills and talents.
- Our collective includes geeks and enthusiasts from various fields: technology, law, journalism, design, policy. Many of us are entrepreneurs.
- The time we donate to the effort is personal time, and given of our own free will.
- Domain names and server space have been paid for by members of the collective from their personal funds. Our total expenses on the campaign are under Rs 1000. We have no external funding, and we aren’t looking for any at present.
Why we exist
- We want an open Internet, where everyone has an equal opportunity to use the sites and services they want, when they want, irrespective of which provider they use to connect to the Internet.
- We want net neutrality to be protected in India. Net neutrality allows us to have the choice to visit and experience every site or app equally without any discrimination in terms of price, speed or availability from a telecom company. This freedom allows us to create, communicate and collaborate with people across the globe and for businesses to combine audio, video and text, and reimagine consumer experience.
- The TRAI consultation [PDF: 2MB], which could either lead to licensing of Internet companies or convert them into vendors of telecom operators, has us very worried about the future of the Internet in India.
What we do
- We run netneutrality.in and savetheinternet.in.
- We educate: we create awareness about the TRAI consultation, and help people understand the nuances of issues related to net neutrality by providing data, information and opinion, answering questions and addressing misconceptions.
- netneutrality.in hosts links to various arguments for net neutrality, and a set of suggestions for concerned citizens on how they can participate in the effort.
- savetheinternet.in hosts a set of answers to the questions raised in the TRAI consultation paper. These answers were prepared by the collective, with the help of lawyers (who are part of the collective). Users are free to edit these answers to reflect their point of view, even if they disagree with ours. We don’t send answers to TRAI for them: they copy their answers to their email accounts, and send them to TRAI. As of 21 April, 17:00 hours, over 9.5 lakh emails have been sent to TRAI CCing or BCCing us. Many more may have been sent without our knowledge.
- The collective is also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
How we work
- We’re in different cities. Most of us have never met each other before, online or offline.
- We collaborate from wherever we are, using whatever devices we have at hand, via anything from phone calls to private online chat rooms.
- The group is loosely organised; problems are discussed, solutions arrived at, individuals put up their hands to implement the solutions. Sometimes individuals see a problem, go off and solve it, then bring the solution to the group for discussion. We aim for rough consensus and running solutions.
- Of course there are arguments. Ferocious ones sometimes. Some of these have taken place in public view. We understand that we are not fighting; we’re just trying to understand differing points of view about complex subjects and come to a common ground that the collective is comfortable with.
- We’re all still talking to one another and will buy each other beverages if and when we do meet in person.
The story so far
- Members of Reddit India began discussing Net Neutrality in December 2014, after the news of Airtel deciding to charge extra for Skype (VoIP services) use on its network.
- netneutrality.in was started on December 25, 2014, to talk about net neutrality and how Airtel was breaking it.
- A petition was started on change.org
- Airtel decided to reverse their decision after the issue gained public attention and TRAI agreed to bring a consultation paper, which was made public on 27 March 2015.
- We created an abridged version of the TRAI consultation paper.
- Spreadsheets which allow users to inform startups, politicians and influential Twitter users about the consultation were created.
- Members of Reddit India and of other forums began discussions on the topic, with members collaborating on writing answers, and answering concerns. Detailed answers using legally correct language were prepared.
- We launched savetheinternet.in to help concerned Indian citizens submit responses to TRAI; the answers were a result of collaboration by a group of volunteers.
- After an initial push by the collective, a video by the comedy collective All India Bakchod that urged viewers to go to savetheinternet.in and mail TRAI the answers there gave the movement a huge boost. Their loyal following, which includes many celebrities with massive fan followings of their own, in turn linked to the AIB video, widening the campaign’s reach.
- News of the Flipkart and Airtel Zero deal broke. Flipkart immediately came under harsh criticism.
- AIB’s video and the Flipkart news led to the media, which had already been covering the issue sporadically, moving their coverage up several notches; the #SaveTheInternet movement moved to newspaper front pages, prime time television, and online news and views sites.
- Simultaneously, we ran sub-campaigns to encourage founders of start-ups and internet-based businesses to declare their support for net neutrality (including some who had signed up for platforms like Airtel Zero and Facebook’s internet.org); some of these companies withdrew and publicly stated support for net neutrality (notably, Flipkart’s withdrawal from Airtel Zero made a splash). Others proclaimed support for net neutrality without joining these schemes.
- Cleartrip withdrew from Internet.org, making it the first blow to that scheme. Several others quickly followed.
- The campaign continues, and we’re now focussing on other groups of influencers. For instance, we are asking concerned citizens to contact parliamentarians and political parties across lines to encourage them to support the movement. And we are putting together an open letter from start-ups. For those who have already sent email to TRAI, and who would like to help more, we have put together a set of suggestions on other things to do to support the movement.
- Our immediate goal is to get at least 1 million letters to TRAI; we’re less than 45,000 away from the target.
Public support for Net Neutrality
We’ve had over 2 million unique visitors to savetheinternet.in, and over 950,000 emails have been copied to us. Many activists are organising on-the-ground events in their cities to bring attention to the need for net neutrality. A host of companies and organisations have declared support for Net Neutrality, some through their official social media feeds, some with public statements from their executives or owners on web sites and to the media. So have a number of stars and celebrities. They have done so out of their own free will. We are grateful for their support, and accept it in the spirit in which we think it was given: i.e.: unconditionally.
All numbers and other data as of 21 April 2015, 17:00.