The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has pledged its support for an open internet in India. In a statement released on Sunday, the association said that it believes “that consumers should decide what to do online.” It added: “Our job is to enable consumers to benefit from that freedom. We offer choice and do not block or provide any preferential access to any website or app.”
All this sounds great — until you dive deeper and understand what the COAI really is — a telecom industry lobbying body whose members include Airtel, Aircel, Idea Cellular, Reliance, Uninor, Vodafone, Videocon Telecom, Google, and Facebook. In short, everyone who wants to kill net neutrality in India, no matter what their recent statements might say.
The COAI statement also urges stakeholders to have a “comprehensive and informed debate on the subject of net neutrality keeping in mind the requirements of India and its citizens”, and then goes on to remind everyone just how much telecom companies have invested just so that you can send that dirty Whatsapp forward: billions of dollars in licence and spectrum fees and network roll-outs. “And yet,” says the statement, “the industry still makes negative return on the capital employed.”
Except that this is wrong — telcos are NOT losing money to data services, according to this excellent report from Medianama that shows that data revenue for telecoms is growing exponentially.
If you want to know more about net neutrality in India, read our explainer or just let the All India Bakchod guys break it down for you.