The ‘net neutrality’ campaign gained further momentum today with travel portal Cleartrip and media giant Times Group logging out of internet.org of Facebook which defended its platform, while petitions to regulator TRAI neared 8-lakh level to ‘keep internet free’.
At the same time, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) alleged that TRAI was furthering the agenda of telecom operators on this issue.
The telecom sector regulator has invited public comments on a discussion paper for policy framework on net-neutrality and internet-based messaging and calling service providers such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Google Talk.
An intense debate, including on social media platforms, began on the issue of ‘net neutrality’ after some telecom firms, including Bharti Airtel and RCOM, announced services that are being billed as going against the concept of maintaining equal internet access for all.
These platforms claim to allow users to access a variety of mobile and internet applications for free, but the critics allege that these services restrict the ‘free’ access to a select group of websites and apps and therefore sabotage the entire concept of keeping the internet free.
Buckling under a growing public outrage, ecommerce giant Flipkart yesterday decided to ‘walk away’ from Airtel Zero, while travel portal Cleartrip today pulled out of ‘internet.org’ platform of Facebook, where RCOM is a partner.
Shares of Airtel and RCOM fell today in the stock market.
Committing to net neutrality, Times Group in a statement said it is withdrawing from internet.org and also appealed to all publishers, including competitors to pull out of such platforms.
Stating that it is “time to draw a line in the sand” Cleartrip took to micro-blogging site Twitter to announce that it was “pulling out of Internet.org and standing up for Net neutrality”.
Cleartrip Chief Marketing Officer Subramanya Sharma later said: “The recent debate around net neutrality gave us pause to rethink our approach to Internet.org and the idea of large corporations getting involved with picking and choosing who gets access to what and how fast.”
The proponents of net neutrality claim that these initiatives go against the principle of net neutrality that calls for service providers treating all traffic on their networks equally.
They want that users should be able to access all websites at the same speed and cost and no website should be given preferential treatment over another.