Let me start by saying we support net neutrality.
We are against any intent or plan to bifurcate the Internet and create unfair advantages which benefit a few. Innovation is key to India’s mission of improving lives of a billion citizens. We believe that an unequal Internet will hamper that by reducing the scope and pace of this innovation. A service like Airtel Zero is therefore not just flawed in its construct of regulating OTT services under the pretense of increasing internet’s reach, but is also a serious threat to growth and innovation itself. We believe a free and open internet is essential for humanity to move forward and progress.
Internet is fundamentally about choice and that must be retained. In this case, one regulation for all, is what we stand for. India has a billion people outside of its top 100 cities, and one could argue that this new regulation could help them access cheaper Internet. This cannot be the pretence under which few apps get zero rating. We are a health app – arguably one of the most essential apps – that helps people find doctors nearby. But we cannot support and don’t believe in locking up the internet to push this through. It is the responsibility of the government to create framework that empowers people with easy access to the full internet – this is too important to be left entirely to the whims of business dynamics. We believe there should be one standard for all and cannot agree with some apps getting preferential treatment. Whether these apps are global or local is irrelevant – regulation must not discriminate between services.
Now, the larger picture of the role of regulations itself. We have seen it time and again, innovation being curtailed due to lack of regulation or outdated regulation or unfair regulation. In recent times, due to the lack of regulation, few Internet services were banned. Section 66A of the IT Act was an unfair regulation that stepped on the rights of freedom of speech. Similarly, Airtel Zero is a manifestation of unfair regulation. We need regulations and policies to keep pace with the rapid advancement in technology and continuously evolve keeping in mind the implications of these technologies. Otherwise, I am afraid many of the new technologies will be banned, or get highly regulated and ultimately innovation will suffer. Innovation is the key to any economy and must be encouraged at all costs. Innovators should work with the government and other institutions and build better regulations for all which do not benefit a few.
Internet and mobile phones are by far the most impactful developments of this century for our country and the world. They will disrupt each and every segment / sector that exists and create many more that don’t. It’s important that the world ensures they flourish. #NetNeutrality is one such measure that can be taken to protect this, and with it, the future of progress itself.