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Airtel Clarifies their #NetNeutrality Stand , Says Airtel Zero Makes Internet More Accessible

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Airtel snapshot

The partnership between Flipkart and Airtel Zero and it’s effect on Net Neutrality has been one of the most talked about topics in the media over past few days. Airtel and Flipkart, both have taken note of this and have vehemently denied that this partnership does not break the Net Neutrality principle – if anything it makes internet more accessible and drives more innovation.

Airtel’s Clarification

In a note sent across to us, Airtel has said that their Airtel Zero program is an innovative and open marketing platform that will allow customers to access mobile applications “free of cost”. In their own words, they have said, “There is also a high level of misinformation surrounding the product, which is not surprising since the very concept of Net Neutrality is a bit misunderstood. Let us also bust some of the myths regarding Airtel Zero.

In addition, Airtel has offered a Myth-Reality table that offers more clarification:

Myth Reality
The product concept amounts to preferential access Not at all. Airtel Zero provides universal access and is free for all our customers. Customers have the choice to decide whether they want to come there or not.
Large companies with big budgets will be favored and smaller start-ups will lose out NO. On the contrary we have had lots of ‘small’ start-ups calling us and congratulating us for building this platform, which offers them a great opportunity to market their products at very low costs. Over 150 companies are already in touch with us and want to sign up.
‘Smaller’ Start-ups will not be able to afford to pay for the data charges Why not? Today, when a consumer downloads a new app and uses it for a day, the total amount of data consumed is roughly about 20-30 MB. Assuming a price of INR 1/MB of free data, this will translate to INR 20 for the start-up. Compared to this, the average cost of marketing digitally through large media/ internet companies is about INR 50 to 300 per download. So, this platform will actually make it cheaper for small companies to gain distribution as well as visibility.
Telecom companies will charge other companies for data used by customers. This is a way of making money. Telecom companies have been working with businesses for decades to offer ‘Toll-Free’ voice services, wherein, a business pays to a customer to call in. Airtel Zero is the same concept.
Airtel Zero is against Net Neutrality and gives advantage to those who can pay for data. As a concept Airtel Zero has nothing to do with Net Neutrality. It is free for each and every customer and offers the same speed to all. It charges the same amount to each company for data without any discrimination.
Speed to access the apps that are not on Airtel Zero will be throttled Completely incorrect. There is no difference in speed to access various apps, whether they are on Airtel Zero or not.

In fact, Airtel goes on to say that large number of people still do not understand what Net Neutrality is all about. According to them, “This gives an opportunity to the so called experts to make various as well as baseless arguments. While their point of view is important, we should have a more informed and nuanced debate without painting a picture that is based on rhetoric rather than reason.”

Flipkart’s Clarification

Flipkart’s CEO Sachin Bansal has clearly stated in series of Tweets that they have not broken any Net Neutrality principle. Here are his tweets.

Indians have not take this lightly – As a show of revolt hundreds of them have gone ahead and started giving bad ratings to Flipkart app.

Flipkart Ratings App

Our View:

We stand by what we said earlier – Flipkart has broken basic net neutrality principle by joining Airtel Zero program.  Airtel has clarified everything in their Myth-Reality chart, however, the simple fact remains that apps and websites which are not under Airtel Zero program will be offered at a price, and that’s the problem. For a customer, if they have to pay data charges for one app and other is offered free (under Airtel Zero program) is simply breaking the net neutrality….period!

  1. Hari Anil says

    So, according to Airtel a startup would ‘ve to spend Rs. 50 to Rs. 300 to gain a customer and in Airtel Zero they can do the same with Rs. 20! Nice! But it’s not really that simple, is it? If I am a Startup and the once I gain a customer by spending Rs. 300 on digital marketing I ‘ve that customer. But on Airtel Zero, I would ‘ve to keep on spending this Rs. 20 every single day that customer uses my app, may be I make money from this use, may be I don’t, but I will be paying Airtel. If my user uses the app 10 days a month, I would pay an average of Rs. 200 to Airtel, in six months or one year how much should I pay to retain the customer? Am I really gaining anything doing this? If I get to 1000 such users, I would be paying Rs. 200,000 to Airtel in a month, and 1000 users is a very small number and I wouldn’t probably be making that much money in a month. You still think that this is accessible to a small startup?

    Toll-free number is not the same as this. There, people will be calling to connect to the customer care, mostly, and not to know about my products. Similarly, if a competitor comes up with better funding then he can pay and use this platform to gain more traction, which I won’t be able to afford. I am not saying the world is a fair place, but the internet is supposed to be, at least a little more than Airtel wants it to be.

  2. Saurabh Sharma says

    Airtel forgot to add “for now” after each paragraph in the “Reality” column.
    And can you please post a link to the Airtel’s clarification page so that I can remind them there too.

  3. Akansh says

    Airtel you are stating bullshit comments now. You were the one who started charging extra for VoIP service two months back. Thanks to TRAI and common man who showed their ire against it.
    We won’t remain silent this time. Period

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