The major debate around net neutrality escalated ten folds when Airtel proudly marketed its Airtel Zero plan. The media backlash, not to mention the eventual social media backlash that it suffered was unprecedented for the company. Now, Economic Times reports that the blame game has begun internally, and the company is even considering the complete withdrawal of Airtel Zero. Also Read - iPhone SE gets cheaper on Flipkart only for today: Get over Rs 11,000 flat discountAlso Read - Best Airtel prepaid plans under Rs 500: High-speed data, free access to streaming services, and more
Citing internal sources, the report states that the company is currently on the table trying to chalk out a plan to undo the damage. While they consider the complete withdrawal of the plan, the blame is being transferred onto the publicity plan or even naming the service. The officials claim that terming it Airtel Zero directly links it to zero-rating which is being severely criticized abroad. Also Read - iPhone 12 for iPhone 11 launch price at Flipkart Big Saving Days sale, iPhone 12 Mini alse sees discount
Many analysts feel that the only way Airtel can repair its tarnished image is by scrapping the plan altogether. Some rival telecom companies are also angry over Airtel being a loud mouth about Airtel Zero. “Over-the-top publicity wasn’t required, which has now put all our free offer plans under the spotlight,” a top official at rival telecom company said.
Airtel Zero was a platform announced by the company to let users access selected apps and services without incurring any data charges. The company will charge app developers or service providers the data usage charges for allowing consumers to download and use those apps for free.
The idea that some services will be free, while some who cannot afford to pay Airtel a fee will be at a disadvantage (especially small companies and startups) does not bring healthy competitiveness to play. With this platform, the company is unfairly favoring apps or services that can pay to be on Airtel s platform.
After the severe online protest, Flipkart who first announced its plans to integrate with Airtel Zero, decided to backtrack all of its ties with the company. Airtel will do good too, if they withdraw Airtel Zero. It will send a strong message across to TRAI, and may just give them a little breathing room to regain the faith of its subscribers. Yesterday, Airtel released a statement saying that they support net neutrality but asserted that Airtel Zero was misunderstood. Read their full statement here.