With the Launch of Airtel Zero, Airtel Violates Net Neutrality Yet Again
A few months back, Airtel was on the receiving end of much public backlash following its decision to introduce differential charges for various online services. This was the first direct assault on Net Neutrality principle in India and the telecom major was forced to roll back the new policy. The company has introduced a new service called Airtel Zero which attempts to split services but with a friendlier face.
Airtel Zero is a new platform that will let companies buy data to offer their apps to consumers for free. It will allow users to access these apps without incurring data charges. This can be seen as a direct violation of net neutrality as it will give priority access to some apps over others.
Net neutrality principle states that all data on the internet should reach their destination with equal speeds and service providers cannot charge extra for priority access. Airtel will rope in extra revenues through Airtel Zero and companies with enough capital would be able to pay for this access while the budding apps will be left back to fend for themselves.
E-commerce giant Flipkart is also receiving criticism for signing up for the service that violates net neutrality. Airtel has reportedly called the new service a “B2B platform that is open non-discriminatory and will be a win-win for customers and businesses.” They added that they intended to include as many vendors as possible. But they haven’t made public the agreement or the fees paid by the vendors to reach the consumers. This raises the question whether the platform will be inclusive of new apps or will give priority access to just a few apps.
In the light of recent worldwide demand for tougher net neutrality laws, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) has brought forward a consultancy paper in the public domain. It has asked stakeholders that include the general public to share their views on net neutrality.
It is Airtel’s second attempt at undermining net neutrality, and it can be potentially dangerous for the growth of the information based economy that demands a free and fair internet. So if you want to get your voices heard at TRAI and want the Indian government to keep the internet open for all, you should send in your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information on the net neutrality consultation paper on TRAI’s website.