New Delhi : After facing significant backlash on its plans to join Airtel’s net neutrality violating service Airtel Zero, e-commerce major Flipkart has pulled out of the service. “We are committed to the larger cause of net neutrality,” Flipkart said in a statement.
While Flipkart has learned a quicker lesson, this will be the second such debacle for Airtel in short sucession, At first it was forced to back track on charging excess for data usage of OTT messaging and calling apps and now it will be unlikely that any big players will be signing up for Airtel Zero, as they fearing similar backlash and unwanted negative image their brands might suffer among the internet users.
This was possible due to a well co-ordinated efforts by #Savetheinternet organisation and Logical Indian etc… which simplified the job of the net users to flood TRAI inbox with two lacs emails in just matter of 48 hrs, thus prompting the government and Flipkart to react immediately without waiting for the TRAI’s verdict.
DoT Minister Ravi Shanker Prasad commented yesterday that the govt is in favour of net neutrality and today Flipkart has issued the following statement.
“We at Flipkart have always strongly believed in the concept of net neutrality, for we exist because of the Internet. 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.
Based on this, we have decided on the following:
> 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.
> We 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 whatsoever.”
Earlier, Flipkart founder Sachin Bansal had sparked a controversy by tweeting about his view on net neutrality. “When foreign companies do it in India – Innovation. Indians do it – Violation. #NetNeutralityDiscrimination?” Bansal had tweeted.
Commenting on Flipkart’s decision, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, MP of Rajya Sabha said, “This is a sign that brands are getting increasingly sensitive to what consumers are saying. The voice of people has begun to resonate with the government, the regulator and the brands.”
On its part Airtel said that it believes in the concept of net neutrality. “We have always supported net neutrality. The internet is open and we believe it should be non-discriminatory. It should be transparent and open and completely support net neutrality as a concept,” said Gopal Vittal, CEO of Airtel India.
“The whole genesis of this was the launch of our product Airtel Zero. It was a very simple product. We are making stuff free for customers and we are getting businesses to pay for it. It is actually an innovative platform. It’s been done in many parts of the world. It’s an industry practise. We believe it is a way of getting a billion customers on the internet,” added Vittal
However, the current scenario seems to be favouring the sentiments of net users and it is unlikely that Airtel will be able to make any kind of progress in its efforts to monopolise the Indian internet service sapce.