A few days ago, Airtel one of the bigger Telecom operators in the country, decided to make the announcement that they will be charging additionally for VoIP traffic being generated on their network. Usage of Skype / Viber will be charged extra, above and beyond the data plan and data charges that you already pay.
While at a glance this looks okay, and as if its an operator trying to cope with lost revenue in voice calls, this is the first step in what is a dangerous road and stands against ensuring that there is free access to the internet in the future. In short, this is their first step towards breaking Net Neutrality.
There has been similar efforts in the US with the ISPs suggesting that they charge seperately and additionally for voice and video streaming, but that has been thwarted by the efforts of those who protested. It is now our part to do the same.
This is particularly dangerous for two reasons. Airtel is one of the few broadband license providers for Bangalore, which explains why if you are on any other network (vodafone for eg), your data network is simply erratic. Which means, there is simply no REAL option to switch to any other network either, which has good coverage. You are stuck with Airtel, and if you are silent now, it means you are LETTING THEM get away with this.(update: Tata Docomo, Reliance, Aircel, And BSNL also have licenses if you want to switch. However Airtel is the sole 4G/LTE provider in Bangalore. Reliance has a license but yet to commence operations). All circles have similar limitations.
Trivia: The well known and grudged Fair Usage Policy (FUP) on "unlimited" internet connections was a scheme that Airtel first rolled out. Sadly every broadband provider enforces it now.
Licenses have been issued based on circles which means, if all operators follow suit, there might not be REAL options for many.
This will not be the end. This is the start. Don’t be surprised if they soon start charging for Whatsapp and making hike (their own messenger) free of charge. It might follow with airtel launching their own video service and blocking youtube or charging extra for it. Streaming music services will get charged while Wynk is made excemptions for. If Airtel can get away with this, more is to follow – we are going back to the world of walled garden and God knows how badly that sucked, a decade ago. Soon there will be charges per apps (not for download or install, but for use), and the world of developers being able to freely and openly develop apps and deploy, will get restricted. And operators being the sole gatekeepers of what services runs on networks and also the custodian of the wallet and haggling over what service providers and developers should get. There was a time a few years back in the glorious days of VAS that less than 30% of the revenue was given to the person who built and ran the service. This cannot be. We cannot go back to that old world. That old world sucked and was only grown in the blood of vendors.
if you hold your silence, the rest of the operators will follow suit and if that goes on, why shouldnt your broadband operators start doing the same?
Airtel breaks two fundamental rights. Net Neutrality and the right to privacy by peeking into your data stream to enable variable pricing. If the terms set was for bandwidth and quantity of data and that is all that we agreed on. This is pushing the trend backwards.
The fight starts in Bangalore – which is our tech capital and if we permit this to happen in bangalore, the rest of the cities don’t stand a chance.
Do your part. The solution is to let your service provider know that you are not happy with them changing the terms and breaking global norms, when the whole world is moving towards an open internet and trying to make access a fundamental right.
Tweet, or post your disapproval, using the hashtag #boycottairtel. Let it trend, till they get the message. As a customer, that is our right to let them know. Silence, will cost us dearly.
Update: a conversation with a senior official at a regulatory body says that TRAI and the govt have issued license to the operators to operate and monetize voice and messaging services. Airtel considers a VoIP call as a voice call and if they identify it as a voice call, can monetize it (despite it not being the provider for the actual service). Bottomline, help is not coming from TRAI unless they amend the license. The bad news is, there is likely a similar call coming for Whatsapp and messaging services since messaging is part of their license provider agreement. That said, Airtel still has to depend on YOU the customer to keep the lights on. Make it count.
Here’s what you can do.
1. If you are on social media, use the hashtag #boycottairtel and air your views
2. If you want to send a stronger message type Port
I am collecting social signatures to send Airtel a message on Dec 30th, 2014. Please show your support and sign here : https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/20756-boycottairtel