The hugely contentious net neutrality saga in India has yet another villain, and this time its search engine giants Google. An email correspondence between Vineeta Dixit of Google’s Public Policy and Government Relations division and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has been leaked by MediaNama, which states Google’s “strong” opposition of any mention of zero rating plans in the IAMAI’s report on net neutrality assessment of India.
Zero rating plans allow internet operators to provide related services for free to the mass, by paying off telecom operators. The entire net neutrality fiasco has seen questions being surfaced about the availability of unrestricted internet for everyone - the very basic foundation on which internet has operated since day one. Previously, Google had come up with its own zero rating plan, forming the basis of the Airtel Zero initiative. With massive protests against Airtel Zero breaking out, Google backed out of the situation and remained tight-lipped.
Earlier, the report filed by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) stated that “content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as gatekeepers”, taking a stance against Facebook Internet.org. It spoke vehemently against telecom operators and internet content providers, stating that such curation of content will lead to selective information being fed to the mass, which cannot be allowed.
Google has reportedly been against net neutrality for a while now, when the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) pushed vehemently for monetization of internet messaging and telephony, along with initiating zero rating plans. The COAI gave its justification for this outlook, stating that with free internet communication processes, telecom operators are massively losing out on revenue. This, however, led to a widespread revolt from the mass. The DoT report on net neutrality stood against such notions, although it did leave a recommendation for monetizing national voice calls that are taking operators’ fundamental revenue sources away.
Yesterday was the last day for people to file a petition voicing concerns regarding Net Neutrality in India, and a final verdict on how we use the internet in India is expected soon. With a number of internet giants opposing net neutrality, we wait to see the final verdict, and how Google’s latest request will affect the Government’s decision.