AIB Tells Us Exactly How We Will Be Doomed Without Net Neutrality In India
Airtel seems to have got its calculations wrong. Indiaâ€™s largest telecom operator had announced that it will launch â€˜Airtel Zeroâ€™ that will give smartphone users free access to select internet sites or some organizations apps.
Later it was revealed that those companies will be paying for the data consumed by the consumers across the country. Many companies and retailers immediately announced that they were signing the Airtel Zero plan.
Later Indiaâ€™s largest ecommerce portal Flipkart announced that it was part of the Airtel Zero plan.
Now the company has to come out in the open claiming that its plan was not against net neutrality. Charges for using a service is an issue which the company and the customer has to figure out, Bharti Airtel chief for strategy Shyam Mardikar said, pointing out that the average revenue per user are one of the lowest in the country and the companies need to figure out how to increase the same.
But their defense seems to be meek. Stating that the Internet is neutral and will continue to be so, a senior official from Bharti Airtel on Friday asserted that an operator has a right to maximise its revenue from customers. “The Internet, I believe, was neutral, is neutral and will be neutral. There is absolutely no agenda, no direction, no industry force coming in way,” Bharti Airtel chief for strategy Shyam Mardikar said at an industry conference in Mumbai. “But what we are confusing here is the concept of service neutrality to net neutrality,” he added in the comments which come amidst a growing debate over net neutrality, wherein a section of the society has been blaming telcos like Airtel, for violating rule of neutrality through attempts to charge for voice over Internet calls and also the recent move incentivising usage of only certain applications.
They have some arguments of their own too. Mardikar cited the case of voice, saying, it has “nothing to do with the Internet” and “bypassing” regulations is not going to work as the law of the land, under which the telcos operate, is “sacrosanct”. “We believe that in the guise of net neutrality if we’re starting things that suggest neutrality, then next step would be to abolish licensing regime, and get on a free for all,” he said, adding in such a case, there is no need for companies to pay high premia for spectrum. In a veiled reference to the criticism on tie-up with application-makers, Mardikar suggested that we should let the market forces decide.
There are many controversial aspects of the plan too. Charges for using a service is an issue which the company and the customer has to figure out, he said, pointing out that the average revenue per user are one of the lowest in the country and the companies need to figure out how to increase the same. “Would it be voice only? Would it be voice plus data? Would it be voice plus data plus video or all three and three movies every weekend ? So I believe it is only a service portfolio which would be sold to the customer either by a telecom operator or anybody else but under the law of the land which is more sacrosanct,” he said. The Sunil Mittal-led company had on Thursday defended the “Airtel Zero” plan, wherein it has tied-up with some applications providers so that consumers can use those for free.