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NEW DELHI: After a massive flak on social media over the past few weeks for violating the concept of net neutrality, Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal sent a mail to its customers defending ‘Airtel Zero’ and explaining that its zero-rating plan does not break the principle of net neutrality.

In a letter sent via an email, CEO Gopal Vittal said, “Over the last few days you may have seen a lot of conversation on our toll free platform Airtel Zero. It has been painted as a move that violates net neutrality and we have been very concerned at the incorrect information that has been carried by some quarters in the media as well as in social media.”

Airtel Zero, launched last week is an open-marketing platform that allows people to access certain mobile applications for free with the data charges being paid by the application makers.

Read the full text of Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal’s email to its customers:

Dear Customer,

Over the last few days you may have seen a lot of conversation on our toll free platform Airtel Zero. It has been painted as a move that violates net neutrality and we have been very concerned at the incorrect information that has been carried by some quarters in the media as well as in social media. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear the air and reiterate that we are completely committed to net neutrality. Let me clarify.

Our vision is to have every Indian on the Internet. There are millions of Indians who think that the Internet is expensive and do not know what it can do for them. We believe that every Indian has the right to be on the Internet. We know that if we allow them to experience the joys of the Internet they will join the digital revolution.

Airtel Zero is a technology platform that connects application providers to their customers for free. The platform allows any content or application provider to enroll on it so that their customers can visit these sites for free. Instead of charging customers we charge the providers who choose to get on to the platform.

Our platform is open to all application developers, content providers and Internet sites on an equal basis. The same rate card is offered to all these providers on a totally non discriminatory basis.

There is no difference between this and toll free voice such as 1-800. When a company selling an insurance product enrols into the toll free voice platform, customers who call the number are not charged but when they call a normal number they are charged. Calls are not blocked or given preferential treatment else our whole business would be jeopardized. Toll free voice helps the business owner engage with their customer. At the same time it provides the customer the benefit of reaching the business for free. Toll free voice is not a product or a tariff plan, it is merely a technology platform. We are simply taking the same concept of toll free voice to the world of data. As a result it is for the application developer and their customer to decide how data charges will be paid for. If the application developer is on the platform they pay for the data and their customer does not. If the developer is not on the platform the customer pays for data as they do now. Companies are free to choose whether they want to be on the platform or not. This does not change access to the content in any way whatsoever. 

Customers are free to choose which web site they want to visit, whether it is toll free or not. If they visit a toll free site they are not charged for data. If they visit any other site normal data charges apply.

Finally every web site, content or application will always be given the same treatment on our network whether they are on the toll free platform or not. As a company we do not ever block, throttle or provide any differential speeds to any web site. We have never done it and will never do it. We believe customers are the reason we are in business. As a result we will always do what is right for our customers.

There has been a deliberate effort by some quarters to confuse people that we will offer differential speeds or differential access for different sites. This is untrue. After all we earn revenues from data. If there are more customers who are on the Internet the better it is for our business. Our revenues are not dependent on which sites they visit because we charge on the basis of consumption of mega bytes not which site they visited.

In sum our platform is a technology platform and is open to all application developers and their customers. Our platform only provides a choice of how the data that is consumed is paid for by any of the two – the application provider or their customer. Whether any application provider enrolls on the platform or not is entirely their choice. All we have is a technology. We do not have a product or tariff plan that we have launched. We simply have a platform. And every application developer and their customer is free to choose in an entirely neutral way what they want to do.

In conclusion, we stand fully committed to net neutrality to ensure the goals of the Prime Minister`s vision of digital India are met.

Regards,

Gopal Vittal

MD & CEO

Bharti Airtel Ltd.

India & South Asia

First Published | 19 April 2015 10:22 AM
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Web Title: Net Neutrality: Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal sends email to its customers defending ‘Airtel Zero’

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