Finding itself at the receiving end of the Net-neutrality campaign, telecom giant Bharti Airtel today said “falsehood” is being spread in the name of a debate on keeping Internet equally accessible for all.
Bharti Airtel, which has over 22 crore mobile subscribers, has already reached out to its customers and employees through e-mails and social media to present its case on the Net neutrality issue.
There has been a huge uproar on different social media platforms against the telecom operator’s ‘Airtel Zero’ plan, as also against Facebook’s internet.org platform among others.
“We are totally in favour of having debate, but a debate and spreading falsehood are not the same thing. I can disagree with you but we should not lie about you. We thought clearest way of countering myth was laying out of our four pledges on Net neutrality in public domain, making sure that everyone was aware about our position,” Airtel Consumer Business Director Srinivasan Gopalan told PTI in an interview.
Airtel has been at the centre of this whole debate after the launch of ‘Zero plan’ early this month. Under the scheme, Airtel customers will get free access to mobile applications available through Airtel Zero application. Such applications will be required to pay some fees to Airtel for coming on to Airtel Zero platform.
“Some sections have twisted the debate. We have reiterated comment on Net neutrality by reaching out to our customers, employees through email and social media,” Gopalan said.
The social media campaign of the company says that it “will do what it takes to help bring every Indian online, rich or poor; no blocking, no fast lanes, never done it, never will; enable all developers, big or small, on an equal basis and the dream of digital India is our dream too”.
Internet activists are of the view that Airtel Zero is violating the principle of Net neutrality and has a discriminatory approach.
“It is marketing choice that developer is using. As far as discrimination is concerned if you take that logic forward then any form of marketing is discrimination. There are paid searches on the Internet too. Airtel Zero is completely non-discriminatory platform. Anybody can sign for big or small by paying same tariff,” Gopalan said.
He said that people construing the debate are “missing entire big picture of digital India, connecting billion people who are unconnected. We don’t see any conflict in two goals at all of being pro-Net neutrality and pro-digital inclusion. In our view the two goals have to go hand in hand”.
On TRAI getting a huge number of reactions on Net neutrality, he said that major response in favour of Net neutrality is a good thing.
Gopalan said, “This (debate) is not about telecom company versus social media. We are happy to work with OTT (over-the- top players like WhatsApp, Skype etc). We are very supportive of OTT ecosystem. We work very closely with social media.”
He said the company has written to its employees but only to explain its stand and not to force views on them.