Airtel Zero Breaks Net Neutrality – Will Take Away Choice Under The Garb Of Actually Granting It!
There has been a lot of debate over net neutrality and the proposed Airtel Zero. People are asking questions, how is something like Airtel Zero against net neutrality? Here is my view…
Airtel Zero is basically a deal where companies like Flipkart, Google, Facebook etc. pay Airtel and the data usage by their apps on Airtel becomes free. So, the question might be – How can something that is free be bad for consumers?
Similar deals were made even in the past where accessing certain services like Facebook, Twitter, Google were free on certain telecom companies? If it wasn’t bad then, then how come it is bad now?
Well the difference between earlier deals and the current Airtel Zero type deal is that earlier ones were limited in scope – limited to a single service, and for a limited time. It was like a trial period. Let’s say I got Facebook or Twitter free with my telecom operator, I would still need to pay for other sites. Now the scope is much wider.
Say Airtel zero comes with free access to all leading sites/apps – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp – one or two top services in each category. These are some of the most used apps by an average user. If they get these for free they will never have a need to pay for the Internet to access any other apps/services.
This will be a huge disadvantage for new services and app that are newly launched. Entrenched services with deep pockets can be accessed for free so while the new kid on the block is not free. What will consumers choose? Obviously free. That kills the open nature of the Internet.
If you have to reach consumers you have to pay or rather bribe telcos. So instead of Internet being a demand based platform it becomes a supply based platform – one that is controlled by the Internet Service Providers. Even for established companies, if their competitor joins such a platform they will have no option but to follow suit. From a business point of view it’s a good deal. That gives you unfair advantage over your competition and acts as a barrier to entry for new players.
As a consumer I will have two options – pay to access the whole Internet or access a clutch of services for free. Is there a guarantee that when I pay for accessing the whole of the Internet my experience will not be throttled by the telco? It’s a conflict of interest for the telco. They would rather have me access the net through their free plan because it makes them more money. Say Flipkart is on Airtel Zero and Amazon is not. What prevents Airtel from slowing down Amazon to force it to be on its free plan?
The real issue here is an attempt to convince and condition people that there are two types of Internets – one free with a limited set of services and another “premium”. And the ones who are included in the free are chosen not on some sort of merit or popularity but purely on their ability to pay.
Once the general population has been conditioned to the idea of a premium Internet – that premium Internet can then be divided into further packets – just like how we have DTH plans today. As a consumer it affects me. It makes access costly for me and since the competition has been reduced it slows down innovation. So despite paying higher prices I get crappy experience. Exactly what has happened to DTH.
Analogy of Toll Free Numbers Is Misplaced!
Many people that side on Airtel Zero have compared it to toll free numbers. How is it different from toll free numbers?
The analogy of toll free numbers is misplaced. Will people choose your service over your competitor just because you have a toll free number and your competitor does not? The more apt analogy will be if you can call only toll free numbers from your phone and no other numbers. And if you want to call other numbers you pay a different charge whether you are calling your friend or making a reservation at a restaurant. And the restaurant has to pay the telecom company because they are providing an Over The Top service over their telephone network.
The very idea that a telecom company can discriminate in pricing based on whom I call is preposterous. Sure they do charge different based on distance – local calls are cheaper, but other than that there should be no reason to discriminate.
Telecom companies want a piece of action because they feel Facebook, Google, Flipkart are making money over the infrastructure they have built.
But hello, as a consumer I am already paying for that infrastructure, am I not? Going by their logic Suzuki, Honda, Toyota should ask for a cut from Ola and Uber! After all they are providing Over The Top services on their products.
It’s simple – Airtel Zero is against Net Neutrality!
Watch this video to understand the issue of Net Neutrality. After you are done visit www.savetheinternet.in and send an email to TRAI as per the instructions given on the site.
Do it. This is important.