When it comes to the issue of net neutrality, tech CEO Jason Hope is one very concerned individual.

The internet has thrived mainly due to the fact that it is free and fair for all, and we’ve constantly repealed attempts at stifling net neutrality and limiting freedom of the internet by giving access to a select few.

This is why Airtel India’s recent move with its Airtel Zero has gotten the web talking again.

The Airtel Zero is Airtel’s platform that allows companies and startups to offer apps for free to consumers while the developer pays the operator.

To many people, this seems like a great move that will benefit the masses but experts believe this is threatening the very foundation of the web. Jason Hope strongly agrees.

The internet is built on the idea of net neutrality, and many of the greatest innovations and startups we have today benefited from this; having a kind of gatekeeper to “control” or “influence” the web, or a part of it, will massively threaten innovation and stifle growth. It doesn’t matter whether it is the government or a mega-corporation; Airtel in this case.

Tim Berners-Lee is widely known for creating the world wide web, and he believes “positively discriminating” (which is code word for trying to toy with the idea of net neutrality) could be the biggest threat to the internet.

In Tim’s words:

Today, though, a key element of the openness that underpins the Web and the broader Internet is under threat. I’m talking about ‘net neutrality’ – the principle that each ‘packet’ of data must be treated equally by the network. In practice, this means that there should be no censorship: the state should not restrict legal content from citizens, as guaranteed in Article 11 in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. It also means that there should be no restrictions based on economic motivations. A packet of data – an email, a webpage or a video call – should be treated the same no matter whether it is sent by a small NGO in Ljubljana or a FTSE 100 company in London.”

Tim went on to say:

It is also about stopping ‘positive discrimination’, such as when one internet operator favours one particular service over another. If we don’t explicitly outlaw this, we hand immense power to telcos and online service operators. In effect, they can become gatekeepers – able to handpick winners and the losers in the market and to favour their own sites, services and platforms over those of others.

Risking the Creative Process

Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat and other great startups succeeded not just because they were disruptive. They succeed in large part due to the idea of net neutrality.

Facebook was started by Mark Zuckerberg while in college, and we can only imagine where Facebook will be today if some operator or government tried to restrict Facebook’s access to a portion of internet users until Facebook pays certain fees.

Most successful startups today have a story similar to Facebook’s, and it would be hard to imagine real startups that were created by the kind of corporations Airtel Zero, and other attempts at toying with net neutrality, is trying to favor.

According to Jason Hope, “For the tech industry the internet is a giant whiteboard that has made some of the greatest innovations we have seen possible. Altering that landscape means risking the entire creative process.

Jason further says that we shouldn’t buy into the deception that internet segregation will in any way drive technology. It just doesn’t make sense.

As we’ve seen over time, any attempt to tamper with net neutrality, the very foundation of the web, usually has a selfish agenda behind it and we’d be wise to heed Jason’s word not to “risk the entire creative process”.