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Flipkart Pulls Out of Airtel Zero Amid Net Neutrality Controversy

Finally, Flipkart has realised that it cannot single out its existence in Indian Internet revolution distancing from the Net Neutrality that is avowedly championed across the world against the moves of the biggies to restrain little players.

Coming under severe criticism and animosity on the social media for its partnership with Airtel Zero that violates Net Neutrality, India’s largest e-retailer Flipkart said it would walk out of the negotiations with telecom operator Airtel on its “Zero”, a platform that is purportedly in violation of the principles of free internet.

Flipkart has reiterated that it is committed to fully uphold the cause of net neutrality in India.

In hurriedly issued satement, Flipkart said, “We will be committing ourselves to the larger cause of Net Neutrality in India. We will be internally discussing over the next few days, the details of actions we will take to support the cause.”

Sachin Bansal, CEO of Bangalore-based Flipkart, last week defended the move to join Airtel Zero saying it would benefit the startups and entrepreneurs as against the popular belief that it discriminates the principle of level playing field for all in their access and use of Internet resources.

Bansal said the Airtel Zero is helpful to save the data cost for users and the zero-rated apps are not really violating the concept of net neutrality.

But his statement has raised hue and cry all over the social media and Twitter that the e-retailer who rose to its top position in the last five years riding on the principle of Net Neutrality realised cannot dump the concept to favour some under the Airtel Zero platform.

Now, Flipkart has back-tracked saying, “We will be working towards ensuring that the spirit of net neutrality is upheld and applied equally to all companies in India irrespective of the size or the service being offered and there is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever.”

The government has meanwhile, appointed a committee on net neutrality, under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), that will submit its report by the second week of May on the contentious issue, said Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Net neutrality means that governments and internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally — and not treating users, content, platform, site, application or mode of communication differentially.

Prasad said the panel will study the pros and cons of the issue and recommend the government in making comprehensive decisions. “This is the reason we are doing it independent of TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India),” Prasad added.

The internal panel consists of six members. In March, telecom regulator TRAI invited comments from the public and companies on how over-the-top services should be regulated and sought suggestions by April 24 and counter-arguments by May 8.

Bharti Airtel stoked the controversy after launching its Airtel Zero recently providing an open marketing platform that will allow customers to access mobile applications at zero data charges.

Recently, the US Federal Communications Commission has defended its stand on net neutrality and its commissioner Mignon Clyburn said: “The rules will ensure that the internet remains the great equalizer of our time.” Even US President Barack Obama vetoed the plan to restrain Net Neutrality.

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