RCom offers free access to select sites, raises net neutrality issues

Reliance Communications has started offering free access to its customers to a select group of around 33 websites free of charge to its subscribers. It was not clear whether the ‘free Internet’ platform from Reliance Communications is open to all websites free of charge, or only for those websites who are willing to pay the operator for it.

The websites that have joined the program are TimesJobs, Babajob, BBC News, Times of India, India Today, NDTV, BBC News, IBNLive, Aaj Tak, Amarujala.com, Daily Bhaskar, Maalai Malar, Maharashtra Times, Jagran, Newshunt, Manoramanews.com, Bing.com, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, ESPN Cricinfo, OLX, Astro, Cleartrip, Wikipedia, wikiHow, Dictionary.com, Translator, Reuters Market Lite, Jagran Josh, AP Speaks and AccuWeather.

To start with, these services will be available for Reliance customers in the telecom Circles of Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The goal is to extend the services to the rest of the country in a phased manner, and gradually add more services and websites.

The move can reopen the question of net neutrality. One of the vexing questions that stares the regulatory authority in India is the question of ‘net neutrality’, or how to maintain the ‘equal access’ nature of the Internet.