Net neutrality wins as Flipkart does U-turn

Switching sides to support Net neutrality, e-commerce major Flipkart decided on Tuesday not to join Airtel Zero, which offers subscribers free browsing of websites of companies that join the platform for a fee.

The proposed tie-up was in the eye of a storm as it raised questions on the need to maintain equal Internet access to all.

Net neutrality provides for equal treatment of all traffic; any priority given to an application or company for payments made amounts to a violation of the concept.

“We will be walking away from the discussions with Airtel for Airtel Zero,” Flipkart said. “We had not signed up for a deal. We were in the midst of discussions, and ... have pulled out of that. We, at Flipkart, have always strongly believed in the concept of Net neutrality. For, we exist because of the Internet.”

Airtel Zero was launched last week, but outraged users termed it a violation of Net neutrality.

Many consumers boycotted the popular e-tailer and even down-rated its mobile app to “1 star”.

Airtel said, “The statement by Flipkart regarding their decision not to offer toll-free data service to customers is consistent with our stand that Airtel Zero is not a tariff proposition. It is merely an open platform for content providers to provide toll-free data services.”

Net neutrality

Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic and content on their networks equally.

How does net neutrality affect you?

The internet is now a level-playing field. Anybody can start up a website, stream music or use social media with the same amount of data that they have purchased with a particular ISP. But in the absence of neutrality, your ISP might favour certain websites over others for which you might have to pay extra. Website A might load at a faster speed than Website B because your ISP has a deal with Website A that Website B cannot afford. It’s like your electricity company charging you extra for using the washing machine, television and microwave oven above and beyond what you are already paying.

Key Players

  • » Internet Service Providers like Airtel, Vodaphone, Reliance...
  • » The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India which lays down the rules for telecom companies
  • » The Internet companies like Facebook, Google, whatsapp and other smaller startups
  • » You, the consumer

Why now?

Late last month, TRAI released a draft consultation paper seeking views from the industry and the general public on the need for regulations for over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber etc, security concerns and net neutrality. The objective of this consultation paper, the regulator said, was to analyse the implications of the growth of OTTs and consider whether or not changes were required in the current regulatory framework.

What is an OTT?

OTT or over-the-top refers to applications and services which are accessible over the internet and ride on operators’ networks offering internet access services. The best known examples of OTT are Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, e-commerce sites, Ola, Facebook messenger.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 1:35:33 PM |

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