Vodafone’s three month partnership giving Twitter users free access to the site in India appears to have blown up in its face, with customers unable to access twitter through apps. We’d seen complaints from people unable to access Twitter over the weekend, and while it might have been an initial part of Vodafone’s unnecessarily complicated approach to it – as quid pro quo from Twitter, they placed Vodafone ads in Twitter feeds – subscribers who have been with Vodafone for years are facing problems. Some are unable to access Twitter via their iPhone, others through Android devices, and this is apart from the fact that the advertising is killing the experience of Twitter for those who were in any case paying for Internet access.

Before Vodafone, Twitter has had partnerships with Airtel and Reliance, but this is the first instance that we’ve seen of a company trying to put in ads on Twitter as a part of the deal, and this is also the first instance that we’ve come across, of such a deal attracting complaints. Someone – either Vodafone or Twitter – hasn’t executed it right.

There are other concerns about such partnerships: it should be the customers option to opt for ad-supported free access to Twitter, and not Vodafone’s. In principle, this deal between Vodafone and Twitter is not ‘neutral’ – Twitter gets preferential free access as opposed to other sites (for example, something like a Rediff, Yahoo or Indiatimes), and Vodafone is discriminating against the others in terms of cost-to-consumer. It doesn’t fit into the classic definition of net neutrality (which is bandwidth allocation specific), but it is anything but neutral. As a subscriber, I’d prefer equal terms of access to all websites, and for telecom operators like Vodafone to be neutral, whether it is Twitter, or even Wikipedia: I’m the telecom operators customer, not a website they partner with.

Some tweets complaining about issues with accessing Twitter via Vodafone:









Note: disclosures apply