Despite massive lobbying by the biggest names in tech, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has went ahead to oppose the zero rating plan saying that “these plans will ultimately harm Internet content and service providers by limiting competition among them, and, by extension, limit consumer choice”.
Zero rating is a term used to describe services which can be accessed free of data charges by striking deal with telecom operators and hence violating the basic equality of services under net neutrality principles.
The net neutrality debate has been going on for months in India and Department of Telecom had maintained a firm stand over Facebook’s Internet.org as it violates net neutrality. DoT had however recommended the continuation of services such as Airtel Zero after prior permission from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
However, Indian Government’s portal MyGov had sought feedback from people in favour or against these recommendations made by DoT, allowing few selected services to be accessed free through some telecom operators. The feedback was sought till August 21 while TRAI is still in the process of making its own recommendations on the subject.
The issue also includes the regulation of voice-over-internet applications such as Skype, Whatsapp and Viber and DoT had recommended to charge such calls like regular phone calls made through telecom operators. IAMAI has strongly opposed this proposition as well saying that “such a regime will be directly against consumer interest and against future innovations”.
IAMAI represents some of the largest internet companies of India and was caught in huge controversy over Media reports stating Google was secretly conspiring with Facebook to oppose net neutrality in India by influencing IAMAI report.
It is quite interesting that while Facebook has consistently supported its internet.org initiative which is essentially against net neutrality (please Mark, please understand this !), Google has relatively kept silent on the issue both in the US and in India as it did not submit its own recommendations to the portal.
According to a report by Economic Times, Google itself is waiting to launch a zero rating service in India but is waiting for the result of the ongoing debate especially for the fate of similar service Airtel Zero. That plan though, might have already been thrown into trash.