Airtel's 'pledge' on net neutrality questioned - Economic Times

NEW DELHI:, an online campaign to preserve a free internet, has lashed out at Bharti Airtel India chief 's defence of the Airtel Zero plan, saying the telco's product changes the way the Web works by reducing consumer choice, making internet companies dependent on carriers for discovery and access to their services. on Sunday questioned Airtel's commitment to net neutrality when it was simultaneously violating it by putting differential pricing for different sites. In an open letter put up on its website, it gave examples where Airtel had provided fast lane internet access to some sites and in another case, throttled internet traffic, countering Airtel's claims that it had never blocked, throttled or provided any differential speeds to any website.

"For the Indian Premier League in 2010, Airtel had provided a fast lane to users accessing YouTube, increasing their speed to 2 Mbps. Two years later, the Google-backed Measurement Lab (M-Lab) reported that Airtel and other ISPs had been throttling BitTorrent traffic in India for years," the coalition said.

"If Airtel says it will not block and not provide fast or slow lanes in the future, then there should be a mechanism holding it accountable to that pledge," it added.

Airtel didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

The page of the organisation, which is at the forefront of a campaign for a free internet, put the open communication on its website in response to Airtel Pledge, a letter by Airtel India, South Asia chief Gopal Vittal to some CEOs employees and customers. Vittal had defended the company's underfire zero rating plan and said it was committed to net neutrality. The telco added that it had in the past, and will always provide the same treatment to every website, content or application that runs on its network. was formed on April 12 this year, and includes more than 50 people supporting the cause of net neutrality — a concept that guarantees consumers equal and non-discriminatory access to all data, apps and services on the internet.

The campaign has already directed over eight lakh emails to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which is holding a consultation process on whether over-thetop, or apps, should be regulated.

The Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI), a mouthpiece of GSM telcos, including Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, reiterated on Sunday that it supported net neutrality and urged for a comprehensive and informed debate on the subject from an Indian perspective.

While CEO Gopal Vittal had stressed that the Airtel Zero scheme was a charge-free option for consumers to access apps, the local internet body has countered it, saying this effectively meant changing the internet model and allowing telecom operators to discriminate what and how consumers access as opposed to an open platform. though criticised Airtel Zero's view of zero- rating plan being similar to 'toll-free voice', saying that toll free voice is a support mechanism for most businesses and was not the sole entry point, unlike internet access. Toll-free voice is a mode of information as opposed to internet, which is used for delivery of content and doing transactions.

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