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Flipkart pulls out of Airtel Zero. Net neutrality in India gets a boost


Well give yourselves a pat on the back Internet, you deserve it. E-commerce major Flipkart has announced that it has pulled out from its deal with Airtel Zero and says that it is committed to the larger cause of Net Neutrality in India and will be internally discussing over the next few days, the details of actions they will take to support the cause.

Here’s the official statement:

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

Flipkart earlier this month had tied up with Airtel  in order to allow companies to buy data to offer their apps to consumers for free on the operator’s network by rating their application zero. Flipkart was previously part of the Airtel OneTouch initiative. Zero-rating violates Net Neutrality, something which the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has acknowledged in its consultation paper announced last week (paper, FAQs), which may end up in a licensing regime for Internet companies, or allow telecom operators to do traffic shaping – slow down or speed up certain services, make some expensive versus others, or slice the Internet into types of services, rather than offer access to the Internet as a whole.

Also read: The Airtel Zero idea: Splitting India’s Internet into many Internets

Last week, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal took to Twitter to express his views on signing up with Airtel Zeo. “Zero rated apps for limited time doesn’t go against #NetNeutrality. Costs/competition are very high. Can’t be sustained for long. 0 (Zero)rating only reduces data costs for users. Fears of a telecom big brother emerging are unfounded. Choice wins. Always,” Bansal had said.

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Flipkart’s moves was met with a lot of backlash on the Internet and a lot of its customers decided to give a one star rating and unintsall their application  on the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes to show support for Net Neutrality. Reddit India, which had been championing net neutrality in India, started a campaign to downvote the application and it did have a noticeable effect on their ratings on the stores.

It seems choice always wins after all, but it remains to be seen what actions Flipkart will take to show their support for net neutrality. Here’s a tweet from Flipkart’s chief technology officer to sign things off.

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