After ecommerce player Flipkart took an about turn and decided to not go ahead with their association with Airtel Zero, now it is Cleartrip and NDTV that have pulled out of Facebook and Reliance Communications initiative Internet.org. In a statement posted on Cleartrip’s blog it said that it was standing for Net Neutrality and after much thought it had decided that it is “something that is against our core DNA”, while NDTV’s Prannoy Roy tweeted that they were committed to net neutrality and therefore will not be part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative. Similarly Times Group has announced that they commit to quit Internet.org initiative too. Internet.org had 33 websites as part of initiative for free internet access which have raised questions from many who believe it violates net neutrality.
The Cleartrip statement is as follows:
At various points in time, we have been questioned about our stance on Net Neutrality is. We’d like to take the opportunity today to clarify our stance and take a stand.
Cleartrip has stood for the freedom of the Internet and voiced our support for Net Neutrality.
If Cleartrip supports Net Neutrality, then one might legitimately ask why Cleartrip chose to participate in the Indian launch of Internet.org.
Here’s why: a few weeks back, Facebook reached out and asked us to participate in the Internet.org initiative with the intention of helping us deliver one of our most affordable products to the more underserved parts of the country. There was no revenue arrangement between us and Internet.org or any of its participants — we were neither paid anything, nor did we pay anything to participate. Additionally we don’t make any money out of that product. Since there was absolutely zero money changing hands, we genuinely believed we were contributing to a social cause.
But the recent debate around #NetNeutrality gave us pause to rethink our approach to Internet.org and the idea of large corporations getting involved with picking and choosing who gets access to what and how fast. What started off with providing a simple search service has us now concerned with influencing customer decision-making by forcing options on them, something that is against our core DNA.
So while our original intent was noble, it is impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest (both real and perceived) in our decision to be a participant in Internet.org. In light of this, Cleartrip has withdrawn our association with and participation in Internet.org entirely.
We believe that the Internet is a great leveller and that freedom of the Internet is critical for innovation. Cleartrip is and always will be a fully committed supporter of #NetNeutrality.