Net Neutrality: This is why rich digital firms like Flipkart are 'liking' Airtel Zero

Net Neutrality: This is why rich digital firms like Flipkart are 'liking' Airtel ZeroIndia's biggest online marketplace Flipkart is in talks with Airtel to join its 'Zero' platform so consumers don't pay for data when they browse the Flipkart app. Instead, Flipkart picks up the tab. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have struck up similar partnerships in the past.

Such a prospect where consumers don't pay for the data they use, while the app-maker does, may sound alluring at first. But breaking 'nneutrality'-the idea of a non-discriminatory internet access regardless of the origin of your data-comes with clear dangers.

We explain why Flipkart and other deep-pocketed companies are embracing Airtel Zero and why it may not be good for competition

What's in it for Flipkart and its ilk?

For large internet companies like Flipkart which can pay to partner with Airtel, it is an advantage against smaller players. This move could offer access to users who are price-sensitive.


Offering free data will be an added advantage to lure in consumers in a price-sensitive market.

Why is Airtel Zero a bad idea?

If consumers begin expecting free data like in the case of discounts, it would put further pressure on ecommerce companies that are locked in fierce competition and burning cash.

At the same time, another startup which cannot afford to partner with Airtel will lose out to competition. Now, Flipkart too was a tiny bookseller once and it grew because of a free and open internet. If there was no net neutrality, there would be no Flipkart as we know it today. So in effect innovation and entrepreneurship will become a casualty.

Once other ecommerce companies join Airtel Zero, internet service providers could push up prices. Breaking net neutrality will push up cost of communication and access to consumers in the long run.