Flipkart Says No to Airtel Zero After Net Neutrality Protests

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Flipkart Says No to Airtel Zero After Net Neutrality Protests

Amidst controversy about net neutrality, Flipkart has backed off from zero-rating plans with Airtel with a promise to commit to the cause of net neutrality in India, the company announced in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

Last week, Airtel drew a lot of ire from customers in India when it announced Airtel Zero, a platform that would allow app makers to pay for data accessed by their users. This was seen as a violation of net neutrality and provoked a strong response from customers.

Airtel has defended its plan and promised that it would not introduce other traffic management measures such as slow lanes of access but most customers were not convinced.

(Also see: Flipkart Pulls Out of Airtel Zero After Net Neutrality Protests: 10 Latest Developments)

While many companies such as Zomato spoke out against Airtel Zero, Flipkart was rumoured to be one of the first partners on the platform, and Flipkart co-founder and CEO Sachin Bansal tweeted that zero-rated apps don't go against net neutrality, and are good for the consumers.

This led to a wave of consumer backlash against Flipkart, with users giving its apps 1-star ratings.

In the face of this backlash, Flipkart has also changed its stance. After doggedly defending its plans on Twitter, the company has now issued an email statement confirming that it is not going to partner with Airtel Zero any more, and that it is committing to the cause of net neutrality in India. You can see the full statement from Flipkart below:

"We at Flipkart have always strongly believed in the concept of net neutrality, for we exist because of the Internet. Over the past few days, 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 Zero.
  • 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 the cause.
  • 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 being offered and there is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever."

Airtel also provided an emailed statement reacting to Flipkart's move.

Airtel fully supports the concept of Net Neutrality. There have been some misconceptions about our toll free data platform - Airtel Zero. It is a not a tariff proposition but is an open marketing platform that

  • Allows any application or content provider to offer their service on a toll free basis to their customers who are on our network.
  • Such customers whether on a data pack or not will therefore be able to access these toll free services free of charge.
  • No site whether on the toll free platform or not under any circumstances is blocked, throttled or provided any form of preferential access.
  • The toll free platform is open to all content providers on a completely non discriminatory basis and operates on the same principle as 1-800 toll free voice services.

The statement made by Flipkart regarding their decision not to offer toll free data service to their customers is consistent with our stand that Airtel Zero is not a tariff proposition. It is merely an open platform for content providers to provide toll free data services. The platform remains open to all companies who want to offer these toll free data services to their customers on a completely non discriminatory basis.

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