Who’s afraid of net neutrality? Fascists, that’s who! Part 1
Net neutrality is a good thing, plain and simple. It benefits aam aadmi, big business and everyone in between. But try telling that to Airtel.
Bharti Airtel’s CEO, Gopal Vittal, according to Airtel’s 2014 annual report, already receives a paltry Rs. 42,461,019/- ($680,659.86) per annum, in contrast to Executive Chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Rs. 238,800,623/- ($3,828,130.80) per annum. Perhaps insufficient for elitists, but by Indian, and even U.S., living standards, these are princely sums.
Despite enjoying so much wealth already, Airtel, through its Airtel Zero scheme, seems bent on creating an unfair monopolistic environment, ensuring the rich get richer while keeping fledgling entrepreneurs at bay.
Telecos such as Airtel, Reliance and Vodafone, just to name a few, are notorious for providing dismally inferior services at ridiculously inflated prices, as is clearly demonstrated by thousands of customer complaints posted on Mouthshut.com alone. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Airtel exhibits disdain for something which ensures fairness, such as net neutrality. What more can we expect from a company that has been boycotted in India, Zambia and Sri Lanka?
Flipkart’s spokesperson has clarified the company’s role in the Airtel Zero controversy: “We had not signed up for a deal. We were in the midst of discussions and can confirm that we have pulled out of that. 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
* 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
* 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 beingoffered and there is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever.”
Net neutrality forces internet service providers (ISPs), like Airtel, to treat all internet traffic equally. Net neutrality means that all data is equal and should not be discriminated against due to the site itself, the content on the site or the user of the site. This is how the internet has always worked, and it has empowered all stakeholders.
Neutrality ensures content is equally accessible. Neutrality means you don’t get charged more for viewing videos vs written content, and the telecom provider is not allowed to serve one site faster than another. Net neutrality has enabled the mushrooming of start-ups as well, since transaction costs are less and the playing field is even. In fact, Techspirit and Flipkart would not exist today if the net were not neutral.
The telecom boys are angry because free communication apps empower hardworking, often underpaid, people to reduce their monthly communication expenditures. Instead of doing something intelligent to acquire and retain customers, such as mastering the very basics of good customer service, or simply giving customers what they actually pay for, or offering innovative plans, they choose to behave like infantile sore losers and pressure government officials to fabricate nonsensical hogwash such as “free communication apps are a personal and national security threat.” If that were truly the case, overpopulation would cease to be a concern, as humanity’s unbridled app indulgence would have already facilitated our collective demise.
See Part 2 of this article to know what business leaders outside the telecom vertical think of net neutrality.