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Net neutrality: Airtel CEO sends letter to Employee and Customers




Net neutrality: Airtel CEO sends letter to Employee and Customers, Airtel, Gopal, Vittal



In the eye of the storm over net neutrality, Bharti Airtel said it will always provide same treatment to every website and application irrespective of whether they are on its toll free platform or not.



Launched last week, Airtel Zero is an open-marketing platform that allows customers to access certain mobile apps for free with charges being borne by the app makers.



The company has drawn flak on social media for violating the concept of net neutrality.



"Over the last few days you may have seen a lot of conversation on Airtel Zero. It has been painted as a move that violates net neutrality and we have been very concerned at the incorrect information that has been carried by some quarters in the media as well as in social media," Bharti Airtel MD and CEO (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal said in a letter to its employees.



"I wanted to take this opportunity to clear the air and reiterate that we are completely committed to net neutrality," he added.



Vittal said the platform is open to all app developers, content providers and internet sites on an equal basis and same rate card is offered to all.



"There is no difference between this and toll free voice such as 1-800," he said.



Vittal said every website, content or application will always be given the same treatment on its network whether they are on the toll free platform or not.



"As a company we do not ever block or provide any differential speeds to any website. We have never done it and will never do it. We believe customers are the reason we are in business," he said.



The head of country's largest telecom operator said there has been a deliberate effort by some quarters to confuse people that it will offer differential speeds or differential access for different sites.



"This is untrue. After all we earn revenue from data. 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.



The debate over net neutrality has gained momentum after Airtel announced the marketing platform. Due to the outrage over social media, e-commerce major Flipkart has withdrawn from Airtel Zero.



Meanwhile, Cleartrip, NDTV and Times Group have logged out from internet.org platform of Facebook, where Reliance Communication is a partner.



Today Mr. Vittal has sent a personal mail to the company's customers explaining that its controversial zero-rating plan called Airtel Zero does not violate the principle of net neutrality.






The following is the full text of his mail to Airtel customers:





Dear Customer





Over the last few days you may have seen a lot of conversation on our toll free platform Airtel Zero. It has been painted as a move that violates net neutrality and we have been very concerned at the incorrect information that has been carried by some quarters in the media as well as in social media. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear the air and reiterate that we are completely committed to net neutrality. Let me clarify.





Our vision is to have every Indian on the internet. There are millions of Indians who think that the internet is expensive and do not know what it can do for them. We believe that every Indian has the right to be on the internet. We know that if we allow them to experience the joys of the internet they will join the digital revolution.


Airtel Zero is a technology platform that connects application providers to their customers for free. The platform allows any content or application provider to enroll on it so that their customers can visit these sites for free. Instead of charging customers we charge the providers who choose to get on to the platform.


Our platform is open to all application developers, content providers and internet sites on an equal basis. The same rate card is offered to all these providers on a totally non discriminatory basis.


There is no difference between this and toll free voice such as 1-800. When a company selling an insurance product enrols into the toll free voice platform, customers who call the number are not charged but when they call a normal number they are charged. 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. As a result it is for the application developer and their customer to decide how data charges will be paid for. 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.


Finally every web site, content or application will always be given the same treatment on our network whether they are on the toll free platform or not. As a company we do not ever block, throttle or provide any differential speeds to any web site. We have never done it and will never do it. We believe customers are the reason we are in business. As a result we will always do what is right for our customers.


There has been a deliberate effort by some quarters to confuse people that we will offer differential speeds or differential access for different sites. This is untrue. After all we earn revenues from data. 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.





In sum our platform is a technology platform and is open to all application developers and their customers. Our platform only provides a choice of how the data that is consumed is paid for by any of the two - the application provider or their customer. Whether any application provider enrolls on the platform or not is entirely their choice. 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.





In conclusion, we stand fully committed to net neutrality to ensure the goals of the Prime Minister`s vision of digital India are met.





Regards,


Gopal Vittal


MD & CEO


Bharti Airtel Ltd.


India & South Asia



This comes almost a week after Flipkart pulled out of its talks with Airtel on joining its zero-rating plan, following a social media backlash against the e-commerce firm. Airtel itself has been under sustained attack from net neutrality advocates.


Net neutrality: Airtel CEO sends letter to Employee and Customers, Flipkart



Some net neutrality advocates say Airtel Zero discriminates against smaller firms who might not be able to pay to get on to the platform. Customers would likely move to services that they can access for free. Flipkart CEO Sachin Bansal said there were risks of Airtel Zero going against net neutrality principles in the long run.



But some experts also say it is possible to regulate zero-rating plans in a way that it does not discriminate against small players.



Source: TOI





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