Google is discussing the idea of ‘zero rating’ with some app developers about reduction and possible cost elimination of data, reports India Today. The search giant is reportedly planning for this with companies like Flipkart, Redbus, Olacabs and others.
Under this ‘zero rating’ plan, mobile networks will not charge for a pre-specified amount of data consumption on certain apps or internet services. However, its not yet clear which app makers and mobile networks Google plans to tie-up with for this.
As we have pointed out in the past, by selectively giving access to sites for free companies essentially ensure that consumption for some portals become free and some remain paid. Given that the Indian consumer is cost-conscious they’re likely to lean towards what is cheaper.
Three principles of Net Neutrality:
Rule 1: All sites must be equally accessible: ISPs and telecom operators shouldn’t block certain sites or apps just because they don’t pay them. No gateways should be created, in order to give preferential discovery to one site over another.
Rule 2: All sites must be accessible at the same speed (at an ISP/telco level): This means no speeding up of certain sites because of business deals. More importantly, it means no slowing down (throttling) of some sites.
Rule 3: The cost of access must be the same for all sites (per Kb/Mb or as per data plan): This means no “Zero Rating”. In countries like India, Net Neutrality is more about cost of access than speed of access: all lanes are slow.
What Google is trying to do however, is not new. Just last week, Facebook and Reliance Communications had partnered to offer free data access to a bunch of websites to Reliance customers through Internet.org. Initially these services, which will also include free access to Facebook, will be available to Reliance customers in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala telecom circles.
Given Internet.org has no place for Google (it uses Bing search), it’s not surprising that the search giant wants to build its own walled garden. This further underscores the importance of net neutrality. Say Google ties-up with X mobile operator, now those users will only end up using the apps endorsed by Google meanwhile Reliance users will only use app endorsed by Facebook. The user has no choice, unless they decide to pay up for what is now a paywall to access rival services.
Image source: Google