With the announcement by Telecom major Bharti Airtel introducing their free app usage platform called “Airtel ZERO”, there has been an environment of celebration among the general Indian users. Yes, days are not far when Mobile application makers need to register with Airtel Zero to give customers toll-free access to their apps and the company will inform the customers. The customers can then download the apps and access them at zero data charges.
On the other hand, there are certain dimensions that should not be overlooked. With Airtel going ahead and violating the “Net Neutrality” clause in a bid to compete with internet.org, a joint venture from Facebook and Reliance has entered troubled waters as it is facing opposition from small startups and developers alike, as to them, this would only dampen their chances of standing up to giants like flipkart. Infact, the general user needs to understand that without “net neutrality” the internet would change forever. ISP’s would be able to charge apps that consume more bandwidth and the eventual load would be pushed down to the customers. Also, the speed at which one accesses websites would differ as the current scenario where you have a standard data package and all websites open at the same rate would become non-existent and you have to pay an extra sum if you want to access a website that is not a member of the Airtel ZERO platform.
Net neutrality isn’t a new concept for the western countries as the activists have spent ages fighting the authorities over it, until recently, when net neutrality was accepted and recognized but the authorities. However, in India, it’s a completely different scenario as here net neutrality doesn’t exist legally. It’s kind of an unwritten agreement followed by all ISP’s and they moderately try not to break any laws.
App makers with huge funds would not find it difficult to join hands with ISP’s but this would create a “back to square one” kind of a situation for individuals and start-ups.
With Airtel not yet revealing the names of the apps already a part of the agreement or the terms and conditions or fees of such an agreement, it remains to be seen if Airtel ZERO is just a beautiful flower or there are thorns hidden away.