Airtel CEO clears the air on ‘Airtel Zero’ sends mailers to its customers, says it doesn’t violate net neutrality

By April 18th, 2015 AT 11:03 PM

gopal vittal airtel ceoIt looks like things are not going well with Airtel in an effort to clear the misconceptions existing about Airtel Zero, Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Bharti Airtel issued a public notice explaining the ‘whats’ and ‘what nots’ of the platform to its customers.

This is for the first time when Airtel has come forward in support of Airtel zero platform and directly reaching to its end customers. Looks like most of its potential customers are not happy with Airtel Zero platform or rather we can say there is some sort of confusion between net neutrality and Airtel zero.

According to the notice, Airtel Zero is a similar technology like toll free numbers, which enable the customers to make contact to the company without being charged for the call. ‘’Calls are not blocked or given preferential treatment else our whole business would be jeopardized. Toll free voice helps the business owner engage with their customer. At the same time it provides the customer the benefit of reaching the business for free. Toll free voice is not a product or a tariff plan, it is merely a technology platform. We are simply taking the same concept of toll free voice to the world of data,’’ he said.

‘’If the application developer is on the platform, they pay for the data and their customer does not. If the developer is not on the platform, the customer pays for data as they do now. Companies are free to choose whether they want to be on the platform or not. This does not change access to the content in any way whatsoever. Customers are free to choose which web site they want to visit, whether it is toll free or not. If they visit a toll free site they are not charged for data. If they visit any other site normal data charges apply,’’ he further elucidated.

On the notice, Mr. Vittal also assured that the platforms are open to all application developers, content providers and websites without any bias. ‘’The equality is evident in the rate cards offered to all providers, which is charged same and totally on non-discriminatory basis’’, he said.

Countering the arguments on Airtel Zero providing differential speed and access to applications, which are not on Airtel Zero platform, Vittal promised that the same treatment will be provided to all irrespective of their presence on Zero platform. He blamed such arguments against Airtel Zero as a deliberate effort by ‘some quarters’ to confuse people.

‘’If there are more customers who are on the Internet the better it is for our business. Our revenues are not dependent on which sites they visit because we charge on the basis of consumption of mega bytes not which site they visited,’’ he added. ‘’ All we have is a technology. We do not have a product or tariff plan that we have launched. We simply have a platform. And every application developer and their customer is free to choose in an entirely neutral way what they want to do, ‘’ Vittal reemphasized.

Gopal Vittal has taken an effort to counter each argument against Airtel Zero to prove it is not a move against net neutrality. Rather, he says it as a part of the company’s vision to fulfil ‘to have every Indian on Internet’. He ended the notice expressing his support towards net neutrality in order to make PM’s Digital campaign a reality.

Airtel Zero has been a hullabaloo since its announcements. Many prominent personalities and companies came out to stand for net neutrality, which Airtel Zero is said to breach. Flipkart, which initially came in support of the platform later pulled out of the plan as a result of opposition from the public through social media.

A similar initiative of Facebook, internet.org too came under pressure with these developments. Many companies and media houses, including Cleartrip and NDTV backed out of internet.org, announcing their support for net neutrality.

Nearly 8 lakhs of complaints have been moved to TRAI asking the regulator to dismiss Airtel Zero. TRAI and Department of telecommunications are also scrutinizing Airtel Zero to sort out the issue.

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