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Airtel Zero Is An Unethical Move Which Will Split The Internet

Update: 10th April 2015 Time: 15:52

Lets assume that we have 4 apps A (Paid App), B (Free App), C(Paid App) and D (Free App)

Free and Paid Apps Problem In Equality

So the argument is that A, B apps on airtel zero – a user dont have to pay for them because the money is charged from the app company or the app developer.

Problem: The moment A and B comes on airtel zero they become free for those using Airtel Zero, but B App is already free and A becomes free but for those who are using Airtel Zero but those who are not on airtel zero they feel cheated as they have to pay for the app A which is otherwise free on airtel zero.

Conclusion: This complete system is going to create a lot of unbalance and problems in future.

Non Airtel Zero Apps – The App D which is free is still free and App C which is still paid is still paid as they are not affected by airtel zero.

In Equality in Data Charges Problem

Now as App A and B are on airtel zero so you are not paying any data charges for them as a user. But As App D and App C are not on airtel zero you are paying data charges like before which is not bad.

Problem – a user is supposed to pay the data charges for everything you consume through any app but now there will be two sets of users who are using the same app free as they are on airtel zero but others have to pay as they are not on airtel zero
Conclusion –
1. By making paid apps free for some people where others have to pay does it not create a divide?
2. By making a user pay for the data charges and make it free for others does this also not create a divide?

Tell me your views on this, let me know if I am incorrect somewhere or interpret something wrong.

Also answer two of my question raised in conclusion, when you comment on this.

Airtel is a repeat offender when it comes to violating ethics and it’s the second time the company has crossed the Net Neutrality line within last few months. This time Airtel is getting heavy backlash from developer community for its Airtel Zero program evincing corporate greed. Let’s take a look at what the entire furore is about.


What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality proposes that all data should be treated as equal. This means all websites and applications should be treated as equal by telecom providers and no one gets preferential treatment.

Last year, Airtel wanted to charge separate tariffs for VoIP calls over its data connection, thus segregating data from VoIP calls from regular data. This was purely unethical and the company had to withdraw in response to strong resentment in social media.

What is Airtel Zero?

Airtel Zero is another such malicious scheme which gives preferential treatment to apps and corporations which can pay Airtel for the same. Airtel consumers will get free access to sites, for example, Flipkart will be part of this program, Airtel consumers can shop on Flipkart for free. In long term, Airtel Zero will give Airtel more control on the internet and what Airtel subscribers access on the world wide web.

Recommended: Airtel Silently adds Extra Charge for 3G and 2G VoIP Calls in India 

How violation of Net Neutrality can affect you

Airtel Zero is a start which will ultimately lead to curbing Internet freedom. Not only will the partner apps be free, but the speed of access for these website will be more than other competitor websites. Or in other words, Telecoms will choose where your shop and what you watch on the internet.


This is outrageous and outright unfair to consumers and small developers who can’t pay Airtel for preferential treatment. Telecom’s just cannot be allowed to manipulate and govern what consumers wish to watch on the internet.

If allowed unchecked, Airtel Zero will bestow upon Telecoms the ability to slice internet and selectively speed up and slow down content according to what developers and enterprises pay them.

Maybe 5 to 6 years down the line, when most big enterprises have jumped the Airtel Zero ship, consumers will definitely prefer the free internet over paid data packs. This could mean millions of future users will rely on what Telecom’s feed them for free and young startups won’t stand a chance.

This could also eliminate success stories like Google, twiiter and Instagram in future as it is net neutrality which allows small entrepreneurs to open a small website, advertise their ideas and expand their reach to masses with ease.

The idea of internet losing its unbridled freedom and unchecked outreach across all borders is indeed dreadful. All these conclusions from Airtel Zero might seem over exaggerated at this point of time, but at the very least, this will split internet in two parts, free and paid internet.

Recommended: Airtel Does not offer APN Settings For all 4G LTE Smartphones with Right bandwidth Supported

Is Airtel the only one?

Nope, Reliance and Facebook initiative, was another similar initiative masquerading under social welfare and hence Airtel is getting more flak for Airtel Zero. Idea cellular, Uninor and several other players have offered free access to one or more apps. Since Airtel is the leading telecom manufacturer, Airtel Zero is being perceived to have more damage potential.

Is violating Net Neutrality Legal?

Activist around the world are fighting for Net Neutrality, but there are no strict laws to prevent ISPs from forming fast lanes so far in India or abroad. TRAI has also released its consultation paper on regulatory framework for over the top players and net neutrality, which isn’t exactly pro net neutrality.


The situation might not deteriorate at a rapid pace but in absence of clear cut laws, there is nothing stopping Telecoms from adopting unethical practices. Their argument is that they have no incentive to invest in improving data services if OTT players get the major share of the revenue and major players who benefit from clogging data lines should pay to telecoms. In light of what data revolution will pay, the argument seems untenable. With proper regulatory setup, a middle ground can be attained.


Deepak Singh

The Author spent a significant chunk of his formative years resisting technology. He now keeps an eye on where the world is heading to, and drives a passive pleasure from this indulgence. His passion to write, learn and improve drives him each day. When his day ends, he enjoys the pleasant languor and detoxifies with family. You can connect with him on and Twitter