April 7th, 2015
What Is Airtel Zero?
Airtel Zero is a new platform offered by Airtel, wherein the end users will pay nothing to access some specific websites, gaming portals and ecommerce portals. There would be no data charges for those customers who opt for Zero Airtel, and chose to access only a few specific sites.
How Will It Work?
Assume you are an Airtel user, and you have chosen Airtel Zero platform. Now, there will be several ‘packs’ based on which you need to select your favorite websites and portals.Assume there is a pack wherein you will be able to access Youtube, Instagram, StumbleUpon and Flipkart. Thus, when you choose this pack as the end user, you will be able to download these applications and there would be no data charge while accessing it, as it would be paid by Youtube, Instagram, StumbleUpon and Flipkart directly to Airtel.
The Problem With Airtel Zero: Freedom of choice
You as a customer will have access to only those portals and websites which have made arrangement with Airtel. As per reports, Airtel will collaborate with 80-100 Internet companies, including top 2-3 ecommerce portals. Besides these, you won’t be able to access any website or app without paying extra and more data charges.
In case Reddit or Dailymotion decides to opt out of Airtel Zero, there is no way you can access these portals besides moving out of Airtel platform.
It’s a gross violation of Net Neutrality principle, according to which Internet service providers (Airtel here) should not discriminate against specific websites and portals and make it more favorable infront of end users. And this is what happening with Airtel Zero platform now. Only those websites and online services which have money to pay, will be introduced favorably infront of the end user and those who are new and without any venture will be left out.
Internet was created to remove the gatekeepers of information, and ideas. Companies like Airtel cannot handpick few portals and websites and ignore others. What if I don’t want to buy from Flipkart and don’t want to listen to Youtube?
TRAI has asked general public to share their views on the Net Neutrality principle, and we would again, strongly urge you all to write to them to save Internet and Ideas in India. More details here.
Do you think that Airtel Zero will be beneficial to the overall startup ecosystem and technological advancement which India is making right now? Do you think its ethical to discriminate one website against other by the Internet Service Providers?
Such services will give Filpkart an unfair advantage over other startups and hence hamper innovation. Would flipkart have got to where they are today if there was another company which had such an agreement with telcos to provide free/prioritised access to consumers?