Written by Natalie MootzNatalie has been writing for the web since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Or at least since dinosaurs achieved blogging technology. She's also written for About.com and Joystiq.
Indian telecom company Bharti Airtel Ltd (commonly called Airtel) dropped more than calls this week. Yesterday it dropped a plan to implement fees for Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) usage which had prompted outrage on Indian social media over net neutrality.
Airtel, with India's largest mobile subscriber base, had announced last week that it would start charging its prepaid discount customers a separate fee for using VOIP services since those services utilize their infrastructure. Airtel did not specify the amount of the fees or the specific plans which would be affected.
Airtel backpedaled on the new fee plan yesterday, saying that they'd put the plan on hold because of "news reports that a consultation paper will be issued shortly by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on issues relating to services offered by OTT players including VOIP," according to their press release. They didn't specify which TRAI paper they were referring to, which news TRAI reports they were waiting for, or the estimated release date of the TRAI report.
Airtel claims their reversal wasn't prompted by the massive Indian backlash over the announcement, despite a skewering on social media over the last week, as well as creation of a Indian pro-net neutrality website. Customers reacted with widespread disdain for what is being seen as an attempt to negate net neutrality and gouge prices. Net neutrality is the principle that access to all web content should be equal, regardless of the product or website.
India has no law upholding the concept of net neutrality. The head of
TRAI, Rahul Khullar, told local media last week that while Airtel's decision to charge more for these services was not in accordance with net neutrality, it was not illegal.