New Delhi/Bengaluru: E-commerce giant Flipkart on Tuesday said it is “walking away” from the platform Airtel Zero and is committed to the larger cause of net neutrality.
“We at Flipkart have always strongly believed in the concept of net neutrality, for we exist because of the Internet,” a statement issued by the e-commerce company said.
“We will be walking away from the ongoing discussions with Airtel for their platform Airtel Zero. We will be committing ourselves to the larger cause of net neutrality in India. We will be internally discussing over the next few days, the details of actions we will take to support the cause,” the statement added.
Bharti Airtel recently launched Airtel Zero, an open marketing platform that will allow customers to access mobile applications at zero data charges.
Flipkart stated that over the past few days, there has been a great amount of debate, “both internally and externally, on the topic of zero rating, and we have a deeper understanding of the implications”.
In a series of tweets, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal said he was all for #Net Neutrality.
“I spend time/money helping start-ups in India. I will never support things which suffocate innovation,” Bansal claimed in a tweet.
Observing that zero rated apps for limited time were not against net neutrality, Bansal said such apps could not be sustained for long as costs and competition were very high.
“Zero rating only reduces data costs for users. Fears of a telecom big brother emerging are unfounded. Choice wins. Always,” Bansal tweeted.
Following criticism by twitterati of its proposal to tie-up with Airtel, Flipkart said it was committed to the larger cause of net neutrality.
The company also said it will be working towards ensuring that the spirit of net neutrality is upheld and applied equally to all companies in India irrespective of the size or the service being offered and there is absolutely no discrimination.
Net neutrality means that governments and internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally – therefore, not charging users, content, platform, site, application or mode of communication differentially.
Amid a huge hue and cry in social media over net neutrality, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday that a panel examining the issue will submit its report by the second week of May to help the government take a comprehensive decision on the contentious issue.
The entire process of a committee of experts going into the pros and cons of the issue will benefit the government in making comprehensive decisions, he said.
“This is the reason we are doing it independent of TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India),” Prasad added. The six-member panel, which will conduct the study and submit its report, has been set up the department of telecommunications (DoT).
In March, telecom regulator TRAI released a paper inviting comments from users and companies on how over-the-top services should be regulated in the country.
It has asked stakeholders to send suggestions by April 24 and counter-arguments by May 8.
Congress leader Ajay Maken also said that his party supports net neutrality and Internet freedom must not be compromised.
N. Chandramouli, chief executive officer, Trust Research Advisory, publishers of the Brand Trust Report, said: “From a brand point of view we can already see it is impacting and hampering the equation with telecom brands such as Airtel, decided in December 2014 that they would charge more for calls made through services like Skype and Viber, but had to roll back the decision after outrage on social networks.”