Open Internet battle Begins: Will you now have to pay for WhatsApp, YouTube?

    On December 25, 2014, Airtel, the country's largest mobile operator with over 200 million active subscribers, dropped a bombshell: it wanted to charge customers extra for using services like Skype, Viber and Google Hangouts even though they had already paid for Internet access.

    Open Internet battle Begins: Will you now have to pay for WhatsApp

    If customers wanted to use a service that used Internet data to make voice calls - something known as VoIP - they would need to subscribe to an additional VoIP pack, the company said.

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    Airtel was double-dipping and customers were furious. The tweets flew thick and fast. In less than four days, Airtel backtracked on its plans.

    A neutral Internet is a utility like electricity - if your power company, for instance, doesn't have a say in how you use the electricity it provides, why should an Internet service provider get to decide what you do with the bits you pay for?

    Open Internet battle Begins: Will you now have to pay for WhatsApp

    "The Internet is built on principles of openness and freedom, and at the core of this is nondiscrimination at an ISP level," says Nikhil Pahwa.

    Operators can also use this tactic to strategically push their own services over the competition. Airtel, for example, owns a music-streaming app called Wynk, which it might provide full access to its own network while throttling competitors like Gaana or Saavn.

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    It's important to remember that it's not just telecom companies that are interested in a non-neutral Internet in India. According to the TRAI consultation paper, 83 percent of India's Internet users access the Internet from their mobile phones.


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