While Flipkart decided to part ways from Airtel Zero, the telco still continues to believe that its platform doesn’t violate the principle of net neutrality. According to a report in The Times of India, Bharti Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal has sent mails to several CEO/CXOs and influencers explaining how its zero-rating plan does not violate the principle of net neutrality.
The company reportedly also plans to launch another ‘website conveying Airtel’s commitment to net neutrality, and also clarify its stand on issues related to its zero-payment plan. Airtel’s move comes after being widespread criticism that compelled Flipkart to back out from the partnership.
In the letter, Vittal writes, “We have been very concerned at the incorrect information that has been carried by some quarters in the media as well as in social media. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear the air and reiterate that we are completely committed to net neutrality.”
In the email, he has written that the ISP has never blocked or offered differential speeds to any website, nor will it ever do so in the future. He even goes to say that the company is committed to net neutrality and its dreams are in line with PM’s Digital India vision.
Earlier this year, Airtel had launched the Zero marketing platform, which is quite similar in principle to Internet.org. With Airtel Zero, customers can access apps of participating app developers at zero data charges. The data charges for using such apps will be borne by the developers of the apps. This could result in Airtel users preferring only the apps they can access for free.
Now, free Internet sounds tempting, but you need to be aware that you are getting free access only to services/apps that have struck a deal with the telcos. This can leave app developers, specially startups, who cannot afford telcos’ data charges at a disadvantage.
However, Airtel has an explanation for this too. Vittal says that customers are free to choose between website of their choice, whether they are free or not. So, if they access a toll-free site then they wont be charged for data, and other sites will come at a cost. However, it’s not very clear how this isn’t violating the principles of net neutrality.
Just like Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Vittal also goes on to say that the company’s “objective of Airtel Zero is to ensure that every Indian is on the internet by making data access free to them” because many Indians think Internet is expensive. He further went on to equate it with toll-free voice services such as 1-800 numbers.
Protesting against rules trying to redefine the Internet, a website called www.savetheinternet.in was set up where anyone can send a mail directly to Trai, expressing their discomfort about how telecom carriers are taking away free Internet from them. Netizens in India have sent more than 6 lakh e-mail petitions to Trai, so far.
Airtel, Airtel Zero, Bharti Airtel, CEO Gopal Vittal, Facebook, Flipkart, Gopal Vittal, Mark Zuckerberg, TRAI