Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal
Chairman & Managing Director
Bharti Airtel Ltd.
Dear Mr. Mittal,
This is in reference to the new “Airtel Fair Usage Policy” that is purported to be implemented by Airtel Broadband on its unlimited broadband Internet plans. While your company has failed to inform its customers and has failed to give notice of this change in policy, news of this new policy has spread over the Internet like wildfire, solely to your detriment. As we understand it, this policy seeks to place “caps” on ‘unlimited’ plans after which a subscriber’s speed would be halved/reduced for the rest of the billing period.
We, the undersigned, are loyal subscribers of Airtel Broadband Services. We have come to appreciate the quality of service provided by Airtel, and this quality has not gone unnoticed. Typically, we are people who others come to for advice when it comes to computer and other technological issues. We have (till now) proudly recommended Airtel Broadband wholeheartedly to any and everyone. Some of us even work in the IT industry, and have recommended Airtel’s services to our employers. Some of us are small to medium business owners who use Airtel Broadband at our offices. Some of us, in fact, are even shareholders of Bharti Airtel Ltd. Also amongst us are other concerned citizens who feel that this draconian policy serves as a dangerous precedent for Internet Service Providers to start controlling the Internet and dictate how consumers should use the Internet.
We, the undersigned feel that this policy, under the garb of “fair usage” seeks to essentially place limits on ‘unlimited’ plans and is one that will wipe away all your goodwill in the market in one fell swoop. We feel that this is a tremendously regressive move towards Internet usage in India. As it is, it’s a shameful situation that our country, which is world-famous today for its Information Technology industry, has some of the slowest broadband plans in the world. While the world is upgrading to Gbps connections from Mbps connections, Airtel and other ISPs are still content in feeding the Indian consumer Kbps connections, and now believes that it has to even degrade those outdated plans. To add salt to the wound, policies such as your “Fair Usage Policy” now seek to drive the last nail into the proverbial coffin and seal India’s fate to be technologically inferior to most other countries, including other developing nations.
Unfortunately, one badly thought out policy will shatter your most valuable marketing asset – word of mouth recommendation.
I hope you can understand that the Internet is the most powerful tool in the world today, connecting multi-national businesses (such as your own) as well as supporting the freedom of speech of billions of democratically inclined people around the globe. I hope you can appreciate that the message your “Fair Usage Policy” sends out is that, “We are fine if consumers use the Internet for e-mail and light browsing, but how dare you use it for anything really useful.” I hope you can further appreciate that the Internet today offers a myriad of services that are bandwidth heavy, but go towards increasing the power of the internet exponentially. For your information and convenience, we are listing a few such services which would directly be threatened by your fair-usage policy:
Video conferencing/telecommunication – Not only is video telecommunication important for families that are spread over the globe to keep in touch with each other, but for companies to conduct job interviews as well as conference calls between different branches spread across the word. It is also quintessential for students who are enrolled in e-learning courses to virtually ‘sit’ in a classroom.
Video streaming is increasingly being used as an educational tool enabling a person sitting in any remote corner of this country to get the latest cutting-edge education. In fact our very own IITs and IIMs offer such educational videos which require a very high speed unlimited internet connection. In addition, it also allows the common Indian student to enroll in online education courses from universities and institutions around the world. For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is undoubtedly one of the finest and most renowned educational institutions worldwide, offers such videos and programs through its “MIT Open Courseware” website. I hope you can appreciate the value in our country of a student sitting in a village being able to read lecture notes and watch videos of actual MIT courses.
Distribution of legitimate software – You would be well aware of the cost advantages of using the internet as a distribution medium by companies making software. Progressively, more and more companies will sell their software products at a cheaper rate (or even free!) but only so long as the end-users (i.e. your customers) have the ability to download large installation files without the apprehension of being penalized for doing so. You would, for example, be well aware of the emergence of Linux as a formidable Operating System, which would never have happened if it was not for the collaboration of tens of thousands of users, downloading huge distribution files every week, which was possible only because of an “unlimited Internet.”
Legal distribution of movies, music etc. – You would be well aware of the tremendous potential of the Internet as a marketplace for both independent artists offering their art for free, as well as for big studios who have realized that the internet has immense potential as a marketplace. The success of iTunes, Netflix, and other online media services, only serve as a reminder that online distribution is the future of the media business. Apparently, Bharti Airtel Ltd. feels that India should be denied this opportunity.
Work from home – The Internet today enables millions of people to work from home by connecting to and collaborating with associates and clients all around the globe. The work from home formula is so successful that not only are people capable of earning livelihoods working solely from home, but many multi-national companies are encouraging their employees to work from home as it not only makes them happier, more productive, well-rounded employees, but also saves the companies millions of dollars every year.
Connecting businesses – The Internet today enables businesses abroad to productively collaborate with businesses in India. In fact, without the Internet, the BPO, KPO, LPO etc. boom would never have reached our shores. Companies and firms abroad cannot have a meaningful commercial interaction with India in terms of back office work, without the presence of unfettered high-speed broadband internet.
VOIP – As you are well aware, VOIP is emerging as a technology in the mainstream with a tremendous potential to revolutionize the telephone industry. Curbing download/upload speeds virtually renders this technology useless.
In short, the Internet today stands as the single largest tool for commerce, education and entertainment.
We respectfully submit, therefore, that your “Fair Usage Policy” is unfair to anyone who wishes to use the internet productively, and is fair solely to your own profit margin (as it allows you to give the consumer up to 42% less download capacity than before while charging the same amount). We feel that it is an excuse for Bharti Airtel Ltd. for not ensuring the adequacy of its network infrastructure or upgrading it in order to support the services it purports to offer. It is merely a thinly veiled effort to sell a donkey to a person buying a horse.
We, the undersigned, therefore pledge that, should Airtel not rollback and discontinue this “Fair Usage Policy” within 15 days of receipt of this petition:
We shall discontinue our subscription to all Airtel services.
We shall discontinue, with immediate effect, recommending Airtel to all friends, acquaintances, relatives, businesses , etc.
We shall make all efforts, including the use of mainstream media, to educate Airtel subscribers and shareholders about the regressiveness of this policy.
We shall initiate all legal action against you in the competent courts of law, solely at your risk, costs and consequences.
You may kindly note that this petition is being presented to you in the utmost good faith, and as a sign of our loyalty to your brand (which unfortunately is fast eroding). The goodwill, which you have so painstakingly built over the years solely through excellence in service, compels us to appeal to your better senses before taking the aforesaid measures. However, being informed consumers, it is our intention to communicate to you that this policy is entirely and wholly unacceptable to us. Not only is it bad in law, but more importantly, it is bad in taste.
We would be grateful if you could kindly take the appropriate actions, and channel your efforts towards improving the broadband scenario in India, instead of condemning it to the dark ages.
We the undersigned ask you to sign our petition.