Every Indian has a right to a high-speed dependable Internet connection

High-speed dependable Internet connection! That’s not such a huge ask. As a nation, we have among the highest number of Internet users in the world. We love those forwards of our technological prowess and command over information technology being way ahead of many developed nations. It’s a moment of Indian pride. And we love it. Then, when all the hype has settled down, once we move out, reality strikes. The highways and the information highways tend to slow you down. More people, more vehicles. More people, more data packets. Coupled with an optimistic economic appetite, citizens are willing and able to get online.

We have a choice. To accept that we are too many of us. And hence accept a fall in the quality of service. You can either serve numbers or deliver quality. Whenever someone watches a Taher Shah video, I think to myself, is this why everyone cringes over their Internet bandwidth? India is also peculiar. A trait that highlights its emerging reality. Most users in India are getting online via a mobile device. Simply put, smartphones are the thrust area for connectivity – voice and data. Given the surge in demand, increasing pressure on the other stakeholders have resulted in the push for 4G services.

Yet, it’s not surprising that social sentiment online highlights poor quality of Internet services in India. Clearly, the crores in India aren’t willing to give up. They’re hell-bent on demanding their right – of high-speed dependable Internet. But could that ever be a right? The very sound of it instills hope and confidence of a better life. Some saw a way out in cheap Internet. It’s like wartime. A piece of stale bread is better than a feast. Or if you’ve heard the saying – a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Effectively, we’re used to 10Mbps shared among the user base, rather than 1Mbps dedicated. And if you’ve bargained in life ever, you’d know how the joy of winning a ‘cheaper deal’ is short-lived.

Soon you’re cursing over the grave need for quality products. Monsoon footwear is a great example. You have the option of buying a pair of shoes at a tenth of the price renowned products are sold. You could buy a pair of shoes for Rs 200 or Rs 2000. When you opt for the former and its sole wears off, you’re in peace. But if the same happens with the latter, you’d be up in arms. After a few monsoons of buying the Rs 200 worth of shoes, you finally decide. This is it. You might as well pay up extra to have dependability and reliability. May be the people you interact with are more important now.

Inmates attend a training session for a business process outsourcing (BPO) centre located at the Cherlapally Central Jail on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad December 14, 2010. The jail authorities have so far selected 50 inmates on the basis of their educational qualifications and typing speed for the BPO unit, superintendent of Cherlapally Central Jail Gaddam Jayavardhan said. Telephone and internet facilities are not provided inside the outsourcing centre and the prisoners will be dealing in data entry and other functions of BPO with the help of a private organization, Jayavardhan added. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

There are several reasons why we Indians crib about our Internet experience. For one, we wonder why the Internet is slow through most of the month, but when it’s time to pay the bills, the speed surges. This is a common phenomenon with small service providers such as cable operators. But for many others, the one word they hate from the depth of their heart is FUP. Through our growing years, we’ve come to understand that we live in ‘a fair world.’ FUP or fair usage policy is jargon. Akin to seeing a beautiful cake with gorgeous icing. We’re allowed to lap up the icing. Once we’ve gobbled down the icing, we bite through. Only to discover stale bread deep inside. Then we feel cheated. We feel we were sold a plan that claimed to be unlimited. But, mid-way we realise there was fine print. And the term FUP, changes everything the ad we fell for communicated.

These aren’t isolated stories. It feels like the industry is closely knit on this one. Move from one telecom operator to the other, ISP to ISP, they’re all the same. You may enjoy the monsoon, but when you head home, you realise even your service provider is. Up time is a neglected metric. Why should Internet be down because of weather conditions? This is a tricky one. Some argue that one’s being unreasonable by claiming a basic right to high speed Internet. Some even label us as being the elite in urban India, only because we worry about issues such as Internet connectivity, Facebook and trending topics on social media. While millions wait for their first humble morsel of the day.

I may have disagreed with Mark Zuckerberg when he began his mission to connect the unconnected billions of the world with Internet.org before rechristening it to Free Basics. I must state here. I disagreed with his specific pet project. But in his pitch to the emerging world, he did have his facts right. Internet connectivity has a direct correlation to prosperity. And economic growth. The ability to learn new skills, the ability to find new job prospects, the ability to sell one’s skills. The possibilities are immense. One person empowered with dependable Internet, revolutionises the story of 4 other lives.

The Internet isn’t always about Gangnam Style, Pokemon Go or Taher Shah. The Internet is about the millions of people who sell products online. The millions more who are able to buy products online and have them delivered in some very crucial times of need. It’s about the millions who trade. Who learn. Who connect with family. For some it could mean a situation. For some it could be the much needed words of counsel. Help. When they need to make a choice. Between life and death.

The Internet isn’t luxury anymore. It’s not just about gossip. It’s not about porn. Or filesharing. It’s not about stupid YouTube videos. The channel shouldn’t care what kind of information bits are being transmitted through it. That was the whole neutrality debate. Let users choose how wisely or naively they want to use the great tool called the Internet. It shouldn’t matter to a TSP or ISP what their users are streaming or watching or downloading – as long as what they do is legally allowed by the law of the land. Makes it fair? Bad Internet doesn’t necessarily help with national security. In fact, it probably hinders the spread of information.

One’s a subset of the other, but Oppa South Korea specifically has the highest average Internet speeds on the planet. Taking Akamai’s numbers as reference, there are two metrics used in the measurement of Internet speeds – Peak speeds and Average speeds. We’ll come to that later.

In terms of average Internet speeds, South Korea leads with 26.7Mbps. In comparison, the global average is 5.6Mbps. On the other hand, peak Internet speeds are led Singapore at 135.7Mbps, followed by Hong Kong at 105.2Mbps and South Korea at 95.3Mbps. And the reason South Korea stands out is because it highlights the quality of networks, backbone and last mile connectivity in the island nation.

The United Nations has declared Internet a basic human right. Now I don’t know if western aid would be made available to emerging nations for the lack of access to free broadband. Or the lack of high-speed Internet would be regarded a violation of basic rights. Somehow I feel that’s not happening anytime soon. What I could expect though is nations that don’t grant its citizens an open and fast Internet be looked down upon. And I feel more confident in having a desire for faster Internet. Not just for me. It must be a basic human right. On this, I agree with the United Nations.