Google has joined forces with Facebook in an attempt to stop the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) from taking an anti Zero Rating stance.
Zero Rating is a highly controversial practice where a certain list of websites does not count towards a user’s phone data usage.
While providing cheaper access, ideal in developing countries, who controls the list of Zero Rated sites means that net neutrality is not preserved. In the case of Facebook’s Internet.org scheme the social networking giant allows its own sites while blocking rivals like Google and Twitter.
According to recently disclosed emails between the IAMAI’s Government Relations committee members and Vineeta Dixit, a member of Google’s Public Policy and Government Relations team, Google strongly lobbied for the removal of mentions of Zero Rating from the IAMAI’s submission on the Department of Telecom’s (DoT) report into Net Neutrality.
The DoT report singled out Facebook’s Internet.org as a possible Internet access gatekeeper and one that could lead to the compromise of non-discriminatory access if “such market leaders could dictate the path to specific content.”
The report read “The committee therefore is of the firm opinion that content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as gatekeepers and use network operations to extract value even if it is for an ostensible public purpose. Collaborations between TSPs and content providers that enable such gate keeping role to be played by any entity should be actively discouraged.”
Internet experts say Google has entered into zero rated partnership deals in India, citing Airtel which provides Free Zone ( gmail, Google Search and Google plus) and 200MB free data for access to Google Play apps.
The Economic Times also has reported that Google was planning to roll out its own Zero Rated service in India, but had put plans on hold after the Net Neutrality protests.
Dixit’s email to IAMAI, while reasoning there was no consensus on Zero Rating, asked it be removed from the submission, saying: “We would like to register strong protest against this formulation and would request you to remove this (Zero Rating) from the submission.”
The experts said it was noteworthy that Google had joined in lobbying DoT just several months after Facebook did. Their lobbyists aggressively pushed for both Zero Rating, and the regulation and licensing of Internet Telephony and messaging apps in the country.
Surprisingly Google, which was known for being an active partaker in regulatory consultations in India, had not taken part in discussions with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT that was looking into Net Neutrality, even though being invited to do so. The experts say Google has gone out of its way not to be seen to be taking a stand but was working behind the scene to ensure IAMAI did not oppose Zero Rating.
Several members of the government relations committee had confirmed Google supported Facebook’s efforts and that Facebook now chairs the IAMAI government relations committee.