Flipkart Pulls Out of Airtel Zero After Net Neutrality Protests: 10 Latest Developments

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Flipkart Pulls Out of Airtel Zero After Net Neutrality Protests: 10 Latest Developments

You've probably come across the phrase 'net neutrality' in the last few days across Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere but aren't quite sure what to make of it. Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet on why it's a national debate now in India, and how it impacts you (NDTV is supporting the Save the Internet campaign - you can sign a petition here).

1) Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic on their networks equally. That means users should be able to access all websites at the same speed and cost. No website should be given preferential treatment over another.

2) The idea is to ensure that the Internet remains a level playing field, not least because that allows innovation. If some websites are offered free or at faster speeds, the balance tips towards established players with deeper pockets. All data must be treated equally.

3) Flipkart has pulled out Airtel's controversial Airtel Zero platform that plans to offer free access to certain apps and services after huge backlash on social media and other platforms. Earlier, net neutrality supporters down-voted the e-commerce store's app on Google Play.

4) Over 3 lakh people have emailed India's telecom regulator, Trai, to share their views on net neutrality via SaveTheInternet.in, a website setup by a group working to spread awareness about net neutrality in India.

5) Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said a committee of six members has been created to submit a report by mid-May on that "on the whole gamut of net neutrality objective, its benefits, advantages and limitations including the regulatory and technical issues."

( Also see: What Is Net Neutrality? Here's a Simple Explanation )

6) Late last month Trai released a paper inviting comments from users and companies on how Internet apps and services should be regulated. Some of the language in the paper had experts worried the regulator might take a pro-telco stance in its final recommendations.

( Also see: Trai's Draft on OTT Regulations Goes Far Beyond Telecom for No Reason )

7) Airtel last week announced Airtel Zero, a platform that allows consumers free access to select apps and services with the cost of this data traffic being borne by the companies that have signed up. For example, if Flipkart signs up as an Airtel Zero partner, you will not be charged for data you use while accessing Flipkart, and Airtel will bill Flipkart for that session.

8) Of course Airtel is not alone in this, with Facebook's Internet.org operating on a similar principle, and various other apps have tied-up with telcos in the past to offer consumers free access to their services. In an interview with NDTV, an Airtel spokesperson talked about a "pragmatic" approach to net neutrality, adding, "In its pristine form, net neutrality does not exist anywhere in the world.

9) Comedy group AIB on Saturday released a video on YouTube explaining the importance of net neutrality in India, and why users needs to support this cause. In less than two days, the video has got nearly a million views. It was shared so much on Facebook that it was mistaken for spam by the social network's algorithms and removed, before being re-instated.

10) Earlier this year, the US FCC approved landmark Internet rules that would prevent broadband providers from separating online traffic into slow and fast lanes. The plan prohibits service providers from blocking lawful content or slowing one service, such as streaming video operator Netflix, to support a rival like Hulu.

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