It looks like Vodafone India has now joined the battle between telecom operators and Internet companies providing services to customers over telecom networks. The company has voiced its opinion against net neutrality and has raised the issue of being paid by Internet companies like Google and Facebook for allowing consumers to access these sites, reports The Hindu Businessline.
Speaking to the publication, Vodafone India’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Marten Pieters, stated a need for a regulation which would make it mandatory for Internet companies like Google to pay connectivity charges to telecom companies. He also mentioned that telecom operators invest a huge amount of money to upgrade data networks and that players like YouTube don’t pay anything to the company.
India’s largest telco Bharti Airtel has been continuously raising this net neutrality issue over the past year. Earlier this week, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Manoj Kohli, CEO International and Joint MD at Bharti Airtel, said that both the players need to work together, and learn to live together, but there are commercial negotiations which are important, and they do commercial negotiations all the time.
In July 2012, Bharti Airtel had said that it should be getting “interconnection charges” for data services, adding that content and services companies like Google and Yahoo are making money at the cost of telcos, which had actually invested money in setting up data pipes. Airtel Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal had also said at the Mobile World Congress last year, that operators may have spoiled consumers by giving mobile content away too fast, thus making them “bad gatekeepers” when services don’t meet expectations. He had claimed that services like YouTube is consuming massive amounts of bandwidth on the network and if Google, Facebook and others are not going to pay for it, it will be transferred entirely onto customers.
As we said earlier, telecom operators’ stance on the issue isn’t exactly fair since the customer is already paying the telcos to access data services. Besides, it is the telco’s fault that they are offering cheap 2G data plans. Although recently, several telecom operators in India have increased data prices by as much as 30 percent. What baffles us is that why telcos are neglecting the fact that increase in data consumption will result in increase in revenue.
While the telcos hasven’t yet rolled out any any anti-net-neutrality measures, repeated statements from various telcos are definitely a cause of concern. It needs to be seen, how TRAI responds to such demands from telecom operators. Although, we believe that TRAI needs to keep a watch on telcos anti-net-neutrality statements: both in terms of wanting to provide preferential access to services for payment and also in terms of metering consumer access speeds, offering higher speeds (or zero cost of access) to their partners, at the cost of other service providers.
Globally, Google has been the voicing its opinion on the issue of network neutrality. However the company had set up a €60 million Digital Publishing Innovation Fund earlier this month, to resolve a copyright dispute with the French publishers who had claimed that Google should pay them to display content snippets in Google search results and Google News.
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