Airtel recently announced the Zero marketing platform that allows users to access apps of participating app developers at zero data charges, but at the cost of net neutrality. One of its first partners is Flipkart and its co-founder Sachin Bansal had tweeted out in support of Airtel Zero about how it doesn’t go against net neutrality.
This didn’t go down well with several net neutrality supporters who decided to downvote the Flipkart app on Android to ‘one star’ rating. Soon after Flipkart CEO’s tweet, several reviews on the app started mentioning the ‘net neutrality’ problem and giving the app a low rating. Its the same in case of the iOS app.
Net neutrality may not sound like a familiar term to many and you may also wonder what is wrong if someone wants to offer a service for free, but even if you are not on the internet a lot, it is important for you. By definition, Net neutrality means that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.
To put it out straight, if there is no net neutrality, the Internet won’t function as we’ve known it too. It will mean Internet Service Providers (ISP) will be able to charge companies like YouTube as they consume more bandwidth, and eventually the load of the extra sum will be pushed to the consumers. Similarly, ISPs can then create slow as well as fast Internet lanes, which will mean all websites cannot be accessed at the same speed and one can do so only on paying an additional sum.
Moreover, free internet sounds tempting, but you need to be aware that you are only getting free access to services/apps which have struck a deal with the telcos. App developers and services flush with funds will not find it an issue to pay telcos for data charges incurred by users. But this can leave app developers, specially start ups, who cannot afford telcos’ data rates are at a definite disadvantage.
It’s probably best to get familiar with ‘net neutrality’ as we, in India, could be hearing more on it in the future.