Who doesn’t like free internet? We all do. To be honest, we all love anything that’s free. Over the years we’ve somewhat realised that we all must pay a price for this label called free. Sometimes it means having a limited set of features and viewing ads as a part of the free experience (also known as the freemium model), and sometimes it means giving up personal information to access a freebie (like your phone number or business credentials).
If you seriously think about it, all the free stuff you get everywhere isn’t really free. But we’re happy as long as it doesn’t directly reach for our wallets.
We also love free internet. Be it at the airport or at the local coffee shop, we’ve started visiting places that offer free WiFi as a part of the package. You may be overpaying for a cup of joe but you certainly don’t mind since you’re getting a great deal overall. The internet you and I have come to love over all these years is about to change, and in a big way.
Airtel, India’s premier mobile and broadband services provider, is likely to pull you into its new platform called Airtel Zero. The company is marketing it as a “win-win” platform for both customers and marketers. But that’s just what they want you to believe. You, as a customer, will lose, marketers, startups and companies will also lose money in the process. It’s only going to be a win for Airtel.
Here’s how: Airtel will offer customers a chance to browse a specific number of apps and services completely free on its network. Yes, that’s free internet for you. That means you can download an app, use it as much as you’d like, and pay nothing as data charges for the app. The deal works even if you’re on a zero balance with a prepaid connection.
Now you may ask, how do I lose as a customer if I don’t pay anything? You lose because this promise of free internet for specific apps is only the start. The concept pokes fun at the net neutrality fundamentals. If you’re happy to use a bunch of apps and services for free, you should prepare yourself to pay extra for another set of apps and services later on in the future. It works much like what you currently pay for your DTH connection. Consider Flipkart as a free-to-air channel, and then Amazon as a paid premium channel. Now you see what I’m getting at?
Apparently Flipkart is one of the first partners Airtel has signed up for its Airtel Zero platform. The online retail giant’s apps will be free to access once Airtel Zero goes live. Those who support the move may call it a toll-free line to the internet, much like toll-free phone numbers, but you’re fine with that, don’t be surprised to pay ISD rates for websites and online streaming services in the future.
The whole concept of net neutrality needs customers’ support as of now. I’ll keep it as a separate post, but you should really go through this in case you feel alarmed reading the above. My only goal is to shake up a bunch of my non-techie friends and relatives in the process. Feel free to drop in your questions and comments using the form below.
Image credits: Flickr (Creative Commons)