When Flipkart extended their support to Airtel Zero platform, net neutrality supporters in India started to vent their anger on the e-commerce giant by downrating its Android and iOS apps. Supporters gave 1-star rating to Flipkart and mostly mentioned ‘Net Neutrality matters’ in their reviews over the past few days. A majority of the new reviews of Flipkart’s app on Google Play are related to net neutrality. While the overall rating of Flipkart’s app has not been affected much, the total number of 1-star ratings has shot up. Meanwhile, trying to quell the outrage against its new move, Airtel put out a clarification on Thursday, slamming the “so-called experts” in the country who have little knowledge about Net Neutrality and Airtel Zero. “In the end, the debate over the past few days has brought out one thing clearly – a large number of people are still not clear on what Net Neutrality is all about. This gives an opportunity to the so called experts to make various as well as baseless arguments. While their point of view is important, we should have a more informed and nuanced debate without painting a picture that is based on rhetoric rather than reason,” Airtel said in the statement.
The company said, “There is also a high level of misinformation surrounding the product, which is not surprising since the very concept of Net Neutrality is a bit misunderstood.” The statement claimed “over 150 start-ups – with majority being small start-ups – have contacted to enquire about the product. For the record, every one of them told us what a great platform we will be providing to them and for a change they will have an “equal opportunity” to run with the big boys”. It also tried “to bust some of the myths regarding Airtel Zero” by issuing the chart below. According to Airtel:
|The product concept amounts to preferential access||Not at all. Airtel Zero provides universal access and is free for all our customers. Customers have the choice to decide whether they want to come there or not.|
|Large companies with big budgets will be favoured and smaller start-ups will lose out||NO. On the contrary we have had lots of ‘small’ start-ups calling us and congratulating us for building this platform, which offers them a great opportunity to market their products at very low costs. Over 150 companies are already in touch with us and want to sign up.|
|‘Smaller’ Start-ups will not be able to afford to pay for the data charges||Why not? Today, when a consumer downloads a new app and uses it for a day, the total amount of data consumed is roughly about 20-30 MB. Assuming a price of INR 1/MB of free data, this will translate to INR 20 for the start-up. Compared to this, the average cost of marketing digitally through large media/ internet companies is about INR 50 to 300 per download. So, this platform will actually make it cheaper for small companies to gain distribution as well as visibility.|
|Telecom companies will charge other companies for data used by customers. This is a way of making money.||Telecom companies have been working with businesses for decades to offer ‘Toll-Free’ voice services, wherein, a business pays to a customer to call in. Airtel Zero is the same concept.|
|Airtel Zero is against Net Neutrality and gives advantage to those who can pay for data.||As a concept Airtel Zero has nothing to do with Net Neutrality. It is free for each and every customer and offers the same speed to all. It charges the same amount to each company for data without any discrimination.|
|Speed to access the apps that are not on Airtel Zero will be throttled||Completely incorrect. There is no difference in speed to access various apps, whether they are on Airtel Zero or not.|
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