The battle for open internet in India, has taken a new turn as Google has been caught joining hands with Facebook to stop Internet and Mobile Association of India from taking measures against Zero rating.
As revealed by MediaNama, in a response to DoT’s report on Net Neutrality, emails exchanged between IAMAI’s Government Relations committee members, Vineeta Dixit, a member of Google’s Public Policy and Government Relations team, strongly pushed for the removal of any mention of Zero Rating from IAMAI’s submission.
DoT has identified Facebook’s Internet.org as a potential gatekeeper for internet access which can lead to principles of non-discriminatory access being compromised. The report quotes:
such market leaders are able to dictate the path to specific content. The committee therefore is of the firm opinion that content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as gatekeepers and use network operations to extract value even if it is for an ostensible public purpose. Collaborations between TSPs and content providers that enable such gatekeeping role to be played by any entity should be actively discouraged.
Vineeta Dixit clearly said to the IAMAI governments relations committee that there will be no consensus on Zero Rating and requested for removal of the same from the submission.
We would like to register strong protest against this formulation and would request you to remove this (Zero Rating) from the submission.
Zero rating allows ISPs to decide the access fee for some of the services/websites or even make it free. It also lets them block access of certain content or put a translucent blanket on it to benefit the rival player. It is against the basic concept of level playing field.
Google already has Zero Rated deals in India with telecom operators. It has a service called “Free Zone” through which users can access Gmail, Google Search and Google+ free of cost. and guess who’s the operator it has tied up with ? Airtel. !
It is also providing free over-the-air (OTA) updates to Android One smartphones in India.
Net Neutrality however, hasn’t really been Google’s strongest suit. Google has not made its stand clear about Net Neutrality in the US. Few reports suggests that it is still in support of Net Neutrality. But, we are not sure if it has the same stand in India as well.