How Mark Zuckerberg Defends Internet.org In India

by CXOtoday News Desk    Oct 30, 2015

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On October 28, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg while addressing the young enthusiastic crowd at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi spoke of his major plan of Internet.org to deliver Internet services to several million Indians who still are not connected to the Internet.

The big blow

While Zuckerberg pitched Internet.org as a solution to a number of pressing problems in the country, citing better healthcare, improved education, and access to emergency response services and many benefits of adopting the platform, critics believe the paradox here is he also supported zero-rating plans which have been criticised by many as violative of the principles of a free Internet.

Net Neutrality is a free but limited Internet service for the subscribers of Reliance Communications in the country. However, critics believe the ground reality is a bit different. In an open letter to Zuckerberg, the savetheinternet team said it’s “a matter of distress” that Facebook through its internet.org platform and lobbying on regulatory consultations, has sought to undermine net neutrality in India.

Supporters of net neutrality argue that Internet.org is a Facebook proxy targeting India’s poor. It gives them restricted access to Facebook and similar websites, including the websites that are under the internet.org campaign, for free. For other websites not under Internet.org one has to to pay much more.

This would mean one will not be able to get access to all websites available on the Internet with the existing data plan. They have to pay to use WhatsApp, Hike, and even for games or apps like Ola or Uber. Even access to the IRCTC app will be subjected to payment.

Defense mechanism

In a bid to annul the controversy Zuckerberg defended his stand, “Some of the people advocating net neutrality say that there should be no zero rated Internet. Zero rating is important to ensure that more people get on to the Internet.”

The zero-rated Internet is good on its USP that it doesn’t charge customers on the use of certain websites and apps. It continues to be a contentious topic in India as the likes of Zuckerberg believe that it is essential to bring everybody online while critics claim that the richly-funded websites would rake in the benefits and the moolah. Consequently, it would eclipse the small players and the startups and in the long-run quality of Internet would be affected for the ‘imminent billion users’.

At a luncheon meeting with political and industry leaders to discuss various matters, Zuckerberg highlighted the controversial issue of net neutrality and zero-rating.Those present at the meeting included DIPP Secretary Amitabh Kant, Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT Chairman Anurag Thakur, Department of Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’ Brien, Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar and FICCI Secretary General A Didar Singh.

India is home to 300 million Internet users but also has the largest “unconnected” population (one billion) (without access to internet).”He (Zuckerberg) stated that, amongst all the countries in the world, India with a billion unconnected has the best possibility of aligning a best in class regulatory environment to ensure access to its citizens. No single country can boast of such an opportunity,” Singh told PTI.
 

Mark Zuckerberg launched Internet.org in 2013 to bring Internet access to the developing world. Internet.org is a partnership between social networking services company Facebook and six companies, which plans to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries by increasing efficiency, and facilitating the development.

However, critics believe, no matter which telecom operator is providing you internet services, you should be able to access all date on the internet at the same speed. If there was no Net Neutrality, companies such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, and other Indian ventures wouldn’t have managed to get where they are especially with giants such as Amazon was already there in the market.