Airtel s decision to charge its subscribers extra for using VoIP services like Skype and Viber has unsurprisingly come under heavy criticism. The move is against the very fabric of net neutrality, which has suddenly become significant in India. Also Read - Airtel Rs 79 plan vs JioPhone Rs 75 prepaid plan compared: Which offers better value?Also Read - Airtel Rs 79 vs Vodafone-Idea (Vi) Rs 79 prepaid plans compared: Data, calls, and other benefits
What does Airtel s move mean for me? Also Read - Airtel introduces new Rs 79 prepaid plan in place of Rs 49 pack: Here are the benefits
Even if you have paid for a 2G or 3G data pack, calling someone using a service like Skype or Viber will incur extra charges 4p per 10KB on 3G network, and 10p per 10KB on 2G network to be exact. Earlier such services didn t incur any charges whatsoever.
We had reached out to Airtel, and a spokesperson told us, We have made some revisions in the composition of our data packs, and will offer VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) connectivity through an independent pack that will be launched shortly. Our customers can continue enjoying voice calls over data connectivity by opting for this VoIP pack, or simply use VoIP services on pay-as-you-go basis.
So in essence the carrier will be launching special VoIP packs for subscribers, which no doubt will be more expensive than normal data plans. Based on standard rates, usage of each GB of data for VoIP on 3G network will cost about Rs 4,000 and while the same on 2G network will cost about Rs 10,000. As mentioned above, such a move is against net neutrality.
What does Net Neutrality mean?
Net Neutrality has been a hot topic of discussion in the Unites States for quite some time, but has never really been given much importance in India. Airtel s decision to charge users for using VoIP services has however brought the topic under the limelight.
The basic principle of net neutrality is that all websites and Internet-based services should be accessible to all. Users shouldn t be restricted or in other words made to pay a premium for any service he or she desires. The neutrality also includes the fact that the cost of access, if any, should be uniform for all users. Airtel s plan of charging for VoIP services thus is against the principle of VoIP.
The video embedded below gives a short summary of what net neutrality is all about.
What can I do?
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has already said that the government will be looking into the matter. In the meantime you can also support some of the people who are raising their voices against Airtel.
There is a petition on Change.org and more than 100 people have already signed it. Folks from Reddit India including one Ishan Sharma have created a website netneutrality.in, which essentially gives you more information on the entire Airtel saga and also has gone viral since its inception.
Users have also taken to social media to vent out their frustration.
Since you support Net Neutrality, you must also be against any form of traffic rules for pedestrians & vehicles on roads. Right?
haritnagpal (@haritnagpal) December 26, 2014
Why aren’t we boycotting Airtel breaking Net Neutrality? if they charge for VoIP, next they will charge for whatsapp and make hike free.
Vijay Anand (@vijayanands) December 26, 2014
Siju Moothedath (@SijuMoothedath) December 25, 2014
Airtel Becomes The Evil Santa; VoIP Data Will Be Charged Extra For Skype, Viber etc: Airtel has just updated t… http://t.co/vhIt7ND5al
Do Quang Tuan (@DoQuangTuan_Me) December 24, 2014
Airtel just killed Net Neutrality. Dick move! #NetNeutrality
Punit Gandhi (@punitanasazi) December 24, 2014
Been an Airtel customer for the past 8 year. Antics like these makes me think its finally time to switch. #NetNeutrality
That Goan Boy (@schmmuck) December 24, 2014
Airtel starts charging for VoIP services. Exclude them from data packs. will others follow? #NetNeutrality
Danish Khan (@DanishKh4n) December 24, 2014